The imperfect nature of memory is highlighted by the regularity with which people fail to remember, or worse, remember something that never happened. We investigated the formation of a particular type of erroneous memory by monitoring brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging during the presentation of words and photos. Participants generated a visual image of a common object in response to each word. Subsequently, they sometimes claimed to have seen photos of specific objects they had imagined but not actually seen. In precuneus and inferior parietal regions of the cerebral cortex, activations in response to words were greater when participants subsequently claimed to have seen the corresponding object than when a false memory for that object was not subsequently produced. These findings indicate that brain activity reflecting the engagement of visual imagery can lead to falsely remembering something that was only imagined.
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