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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The effect of object processing in content-dependent source memory

Heekyeong Park*, Fernando Leal, Catherine Spann and Cheryl Abellanoza

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Department of Psychology, College of Science, University of Texas at Arlington, 501 S. Nedderman Drive, Arlington, TX 76019, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Neuroscience 2013, 14:71  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-14-71

Published: 13 July 2013



Previous studies have suggested that the study condition of an item influences how the item is encoded. However, it is still unclear whether subsequent source memory effects are dependent upon stimulus content when the item and context are unitized. The present fMRI study investigated the effect of encoding activity sensitive to stimulus content in source memory via unitization. In the scanner, participants were instructed to integrate a study item, an object in either a word or a picture form, with perceptual context into a single image.


Subsequent source memory effects independent of stimulus content were identified in the left lateral frontal and parietal regions, bilateral fusiform areas, and the left perirhinal cortex extending to the anterior hippocampus. Content-dependent subsequent source memory effects were found only with words in the left medial frontal lobe, the ventral visual stream, and bilateral parahippocampal regions. Further, neural activity for source memory with words extensively overlapped with the region where pictures were preferentially processed than words, including the left mid-occipital cortex and the right parahippocampal cortex.


These results indicate that words that were accurately remembered with correct contextual information were processed more like pictures mediated by integrated imagery operation, compared to words that were recognized with incorrect context. In contrast, such processing did not discriminate subsequent source memory with pictures. Taken together, these findings suggest that unitization supports source memory for both words and pictures and that the requirement of the study task interacts with the nature of stimulus content in unitized source encoding.

Source memory; Content; Study processing; fMRI; Unitization