Neural mechanisms of voluntary and involuntary recall: a PET study

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Neuropsychological and neuroimaging studies on episodic memory retrieval have primarily focused on volitional memory tasks. However, some conscious memories arise involuntarily, i.e. without a strategic retrieval attempt, yet little is known about the neural network underlying involuntary episodic memory. The aim of this study was to determine whether voluntary and involuntary recall are mediated by separate cortical networks. We used positron emission tomography (PET) to measure changes in regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) in 12 healthy subjects during voluntary and involuntary cued recall of pictures and a control condition with no episodic memory requirements. Involuntary recall was elicited by using an incidental memory task. Compared to the control condition, voluntary and involuntary recall were both associated with significant regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) increases in posterior cingulate gyrus (PCG; BA 23), left precuneus (BA 7), and right parahippocampal gyrus (BA 35/36). In addition, rCBF in right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC; BA 8/9) and left precuneus (BA 7) was significantly larger during voluntary compared to involuntary recall, while rCBF was enhanced in left dorsolateral PFC (BA 9) during involuntary recall. The findings corroborate an association of the right PFC with a strategic component of episodic memory retrieval. Moreover, they show for the first time that it is possible to activate the medial temporal lobe, the PCG, and the precuneus, regions normally associated with retrieval success, without this strategic element. The relatively higher activity in precuneus during voluntary compared to involuntary recall suggests that activity in this region co-varies not only with retrieval success but also with retrieval intentionality.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)261-72
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Keywords: Adult; Brain Mapping; Cerebral Cortex; Cerebrovascular Circulation; Female; Humans; Male; Mental Recall; Neuropsychological Tests; Positron-Emission Tomography

ID: 20710706