Cognitive tasks affect the relationship between representational pattern similarity and subsequent item memory in the hippocampus
Episodic memories are records of personally experienced events, coded neurally via the hippocampus and surrounding medial temporal lobe cortex. Information about the neural signal corresponding to a memory representation can be measured in fMRI data when the pattern across voxels is examined. Prior studies have found that similarity in the voxel patterns across repetition of a to-be-remembered stimulus predicts later memory retrieval, but the results are inconsistent across studies. The current study investigates the possibility that cognitive goals (defined here via the task instructions given to participants) during encoding affect the voxel pattern that will later support memory retrieval, and therefore that neural representations cannot be interpreted based on the stimulus alone. The behavioral results showed that exposure to variable cognitive tasks across repetition of events benefited subsequent memory retrieval. Voxel patterns in the hippocampus indicated a significant interaction between cognitive tasks (variable vs. consistent) and memory (remembered vs. forgotten) such that reduced voxel pattern similarity for repeated events with variable cognitive tasks, but not consistent cognitive tasks, supported later memory success. There was no significant interaction in neural pattern similarity between cognitive tasks and memory success in medial temporal cortices or lateral occipital lobe. Instead, higher similarity in voxel patterns in right medial temporal cortices was associated with later memory retrieval, regardless of cognitive task. In conclusion, we found that the relationship between pattern similarity across repeated encoding and memory success in the hippocampus (but not medial temporal lobe cortex) changes when the cognitive task during encoding does or does not vary across repetitions of the event.
Steps to reproduce
see registration and remaining 3 subjects' fMRI data at: https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/PZXKD