Occipitoparietal contributions to recognition memory: Stimulus encoding prompted by verbal instructions and operant contingencies

Michael W. Schlund, Michael F. Cataldo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Many human neuroimaging investigations on recognition memory employ verbal instructions to direct subject's attention to a stimulus attribute. But do the same or a similar neurophysiological process occur during nonverbal experiences, such as those involving contingency-shaped responses? Establishing the spatially distributed neural network underlying recognition memory for instructed stimuli and operant, contingency-shaped (i.e., discriminative) stimuli would extend the generality of contemporary domain-general views of recognition memory and clarify the involvement of declarative memory processes in human operant behavior. Methods: Fifteen healthy adults received equivalent amounts of exposure to three different stimulus sets prior to neuroimaging. Encoding of one stimulus set was prompted using instructions that emphasized memorizing stimuli (Instructed). In contrast, encoding of two additional stimulus sets was prompted using a GO/NO-GO operant task, in which contingencies shaped appropriate GO and NO-GO responding. During BOLD functional MRI, subjects completed two recognition tasks. One required passive viewing of stimuli. The second task required recognizing whether a presented stimulus was a GO/NO-GO stimulus, an Instructed stimulus, or novel (NEW) stimulus. Retrieval success related to recognition memory was isolated by contrasting activation from each stimulus set to a novel stimulus (i.e., an OLD > NEW contrast). To explore differences potentially related to source memory, separate contrasts were performed between stimulus sets. Results: No regions reached supralevel thresholds during the passive viewing task. However, a relatively similar set of regions was activated during active recognition regardless of the methods and included dorsolateral and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, right inferior and posterior parietal regions and the occipitoparietal region, precuneus, lingual, fusiform gyri and cerebellum. Results also showed the magnitude of the functional response in the occipitoparietal region was inversely correlated with reaction times (RTs), such that the largest functional response and slowest RTs occurred to Instructed stimuli and the smallest functional response and fastest RTs occurred to GO stimuli, with effects to NO-GO stimuli intermediate. The inverse relation was also present bilaterally in the parahippocampus and hippocampus. Comparisons between stimulus sets also revealed regional differences potentially related to source memory. Conclusion: Recognition of stimuli previously associated with instructions and operant contingencies (i.e., discriminative stimuli) generally recruited similar inferior frontal and occipitoparietal regions and right posterior parietal cortex, with the right occipitoparietal region showing the largest effect. These findings suggest domain-general views of recognition memory may be applicable to understanding the neural correlates of control exerted by discriminative stimuli and suggest declarative memory processes are involved in human operant behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number44
JournalBehavioral and Brain Functions
StatePublished - Aug 21 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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