fMRI correlates of retrieval orientation

Michael Hornberger, Michael D. Rugg, Richard N. A. Henson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)


Processes related to the cueing of memory retrieval were investigated using fMRI during a yes/no recognition memory test. Participants studied either pictures or auditory words and were subsequently tested with visual words that either corresponded to studied items (old items) or were unstudied (new items). It was expected that neural activity would differ according to the type of information participants are trying to retrieve: a manifestation of the so-called "retrieval orientation" effect. We replicated robust old/new effects in parietal, prefrontal and anterior medial temporal lobe cortices, which did not differ according to the study material. However, we did observe differential activity to test items in temporoparietal cortex and fusiform cortex as a function of the study material. More specifically, attempts to retrieve words encoded auditorily produced greater activity in auditory cortex than attempts to retrieve words encoded as pictures, whereas the converse was found in fusiform cortex. The above pattern was found for both new and old test items. These findings implicate these regions in constraining the search for specific types of encoded information and thus are in accordance with the transfer-appropriate processing framework. Further, we propose that our results can be seen as an extension of the cortical reinstatement hypothesis, in that the same material-specific cortical regions are engaged during both encoding and retrieval, and this increases the likelihood of successful recognition, or rejection, of retrieval cues in a memory test.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1425-1436
Number of pages12
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • Episodic memory retrieval
  • fMRI
  • Retrieval orientation

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