Ben Hutchinson (Stanford Psychology): The role of parietal cortex in attention and episodic memory retrieval

Ben Hutchinson
Jordan Hall (Building 420), Room 041

Functional neuroimaging studies of humans engaged in retrieval from episodic memory have revealed a surprisingly consistent pattern of retrieval-related activity in lateral posterior parietal cortex (PPC). Given the well-established role of lateral PPC in subserving goal-directed and reflexive attention, it has been hypothesized that PPC activation during retrieval reflects the recruitment of parietal attention mechanisms during remembering. Here, we evaluate this hypothesis by considering the anatomical overlap of retrieval and attention effects in lateral PPC. Specifically, we briefly review the literature implicating dorsal PPC in goal-directed attention and ventral PPC in reflexive attention, as well as the pattern of dorsal and ventral PPC activation during episodic retrieval. This assessment revealed that apparently divergent subregions of lateral PPC are engaged during acts of episodic retrieval and during goal-directed and reflexive attention, suggesting that PPC retrieval effects reflect functionally distinct mechanisms from these forms of attention. Consistent with this conclusion, we then discuss the findings from several recent fMRI studies of episodic retrieval and goal-directed attention that revealed within-subject divergence between parietal retrieval and attention effects. Although attention must play a role in aspects of retrieval, the data suggest that further investigation into the relationship between processes of attention and memory, as well as alternative accounts of PPC contributions to retrieval, is warranted.

Public Access: 
Not open to the public

Date and Time

Friday, 25 February 2011 - 3:15pm