Intermediate levels of hippocampal activity appear optimal for associative memory formation
SourcePLoS One, 5, 10, (2010), article e13147
Article / Letter to editor
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Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging
F.C. Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging
Subject130 000 Cognitive Neurology & Memory; 130 001 Bridging the gap: hippocampus and memory; 130 027 Brain Imaging Genetics - Alzheimer Disease; DCN 2: Functional Neurogenomics; DCN 3: Neuroinformatics
BACKGROUND: It is well established that hippocampal activity is positively related to effective associative memory formation. However, in biological systems often optimal levels of activity are contrasted by both sub- and supra-optimal levels. Sub-optimal levels of hippocampal activity are commonly attributed to unsuccessful memory formation, whereas the supra-optimal levels of hippocampal activity related to unsuccessful memory formation have been rarely studied. It is still unclear under what circumstances such supra-optimal levels of hippocampal activity occur. To clarify this issue, we aimed at creating a condition, in which supra-optimal hippocampal activity is associated with encoding failure. We assumed that such supra-optimal activity occurs when task-relevant information is embedded in task-irrelevant, distracting information, which can be considered as noise. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: In the present fMRI study, we probed neural correlates of associative memory formation in a full-factorial design with associative memory (subsequently remembered versus forgotten) and noise (induced by high versus low distraction) as factors. Results showed that encoding failure was associated with supra-optimal activity in the high-distraction condition and with sub-optimal activity in the low distraction condition. Thus, we revealed evidence for a bell-shape function relating hippocampal activity with associative encoding success. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Our findings indicate that intermediate levels of hippocampal activity are optimal while both too low and too high levels appear detrimental for associative memory formation. Supra-optimal levels of hippocampal activity seem to occur when task-irrelevant information is added to task-relevant signal. If such task-irrelevant noise is reduced adequately, hippocampal activity is lower and thus optimal for associative memory formation.
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