Contributions of Prefrontal Cortex to Recognition Memory: Electrophysiological and Behavioral Evidence

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To clarify the involvement of prefrontal cortex in episodic memory, behavioral and event-related potential (ERP) measures of recognition were examined in patients with dorsolateral prefrontal lesions. In controls, recognition accuracy and the ERP old–new effect declined with increasing retention intervals. Although frontal patients showed a higher false-alarm rate to new words, their hit rate to old words and ERP old–new effect were intact, suggesting that recognition processes were not fundamentally altered by prefrontal damage. The opposite behavioral pattern was observed in patients with hippocampal lesions: a normal false-alarm rate and a precipitous decline in hit rate at long lags. The intact ERP effect and the change in response bias during recognition suggest that frontal patients exhibited a deficit in strategic processing or postretrieval monitoring, in contrast to the more purely mnemonic deficit shown by hippocampal patients.

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