Neural correlates of successful encoding identified using functional magnetic resonance imaging

Paul J. Reber*, Robert M. Siwiec, Darren R. Gitleman, Todd B. Parrish, M. Marsel Mesulam, Ken A. Paller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Neural activity that occurs during the creation of a new memory trace can be observed using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Event-related designs have been used to demonstrate that activity in prefrontal and medial temporal lobe areas is associated with successful memory storage. Here we contrasted activity associated with encoding success and encoding effort. Participants viewed a series of 150 words but attempted to remember only half of them. Encoding effort was manipulated using a cue in the form of a letter (R or F) presented after each word to instruct participants either to remember or to forget that word. Increased activity in left inferior prefrontal cortex was observed when words were followed by the cue to remember. In contrast, increased left medial temporal lobe activity was observed for words that were successfully recalled later. These results show that fMRI correlates of the intention to encode a word are different from fMRI correlates of whether that encoding is successful. Prefrontal activation was strongly associated with intentional verbal encoding, whereas left medial temporal activation was crucial for the encoding that actually led to successful memory on the subsequent test.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9541-9548
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 1 2002


  • Encoding effort
  • Episodic memory
  • Event-related fMRI
  • Medial temporal lobe
  • Prefrontal cortex
  • Subsequent memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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