Competition and cooperation among relational memory representations

Hillary Schwarb, Patrick D. Watson, Kelsey Campbell, Christopher L. Shander, Jim M. Monti, Gillian E. Cooke, Jane X. Wang, Arthur F. Kramer, Neal J. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mnemonic processing engages multiple systems that cooperate and compete to support task performance. Exploring these systems' interaction requires memory tasks that produce rich data with multiple patterns of performance sensitive to different processing sub-components. Here we present a novel context-dependent relational memory paradigm designed to engage multiple learning and memory systems. In this task, participants learned unique face-room associations in two distinct contexts (i.e., different colored buildings). Faces occupied rooms as determined by an implicit gender-by-side rule structure (e.g., male faces on the left and female faces on the right) and all faces were seen in both contexts. In two experiments, we use behavioral and eye-tracking measures to investigate interactions among different memory representations in both younger and older adult populations; furthermore we link these representations to volumetric variations in hippocampus and ventromedial PFC among older adults. Overall, performance was very accurate. Successful face placement into a studied room systematically varied with hippocampal volume. Selecting the studied room in the wrong context was the most typical error. The proportion of these errors to correct responses positively correlated with ventromedial prefrontal volume. This novel task provides a powerful tool for investigating both the unique and interacting contributions of these systems in support of relational memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0143832
JournalPloS one
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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