Neural Bases of Autobiographical Support for Episodic Recollection of Faces.
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Incidental retrieval of autobiographical knowledge can provide rich contextual support for episodic recollection of a recent event. We examined the neural bases of these two processes by performing fMRI scanning during a recognition memory test for faces that were unfamiliar, famous, or personally known. The presence of pre-experimental knowledge of a face was incidental to the task, but nonetheless resulted in improved performance. Two distinct networks of activation were associated with correct recollection of a face's prior presentation (recollection hits vs. correct rejections) on one hand, and with pre-experimental knowledge about it (famous or personally known vs. unfamiliar faces) on the other. The former included mid/posterior cingulate cortex, precuneus, and ventral striatum. The latter included bilateral hippocampus, retrosplenial, and ventromedial prefrontal cortices. Anterior and medial thalamic activations showed an interaction between both effects, driven by increased activation for recollection of unfamiliar faces. When recollecting the presentation of a famous or personally known face, hippocampal activation increased with participants' ratings of how well they felt they knew the person shown. Ventromedial prefrontal cortex showed significantly greater activation for personally known than famous faces. Our results indicate a dissociation between the involvement of retrosplenial vs. mid/posterior cingulate and precuneus in memory tasks. They also indicate that, during recognition memory experiments, the hippocampus supports incidental retrieval of pre-experimental knowledge about the stimuli presented. This type of knowledge likely underlies the additional recollection found for prior presentation of well known stimuli compared with novel ones and may link hippocampal activation at encoding to subsequent memory performance more generally. (C) 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
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