Episodic memories are composed of various interrelated elements, including those specific to items of central interest and those pertaining to related features, such as the color, shape, size, spatial location, temporal order, and media or modalities of presentation. Memory about a core item (such as a word, object, or picture) is called item memory while memory about the context or related features of a core item is defined as source memory. What determines which sources within an episode are successfully remembered is of particular interest to researchers. Behavioral evidence suggests that the orientation of a memory task influences whether the related source of the item will be remembered later. This study explored changes in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex while participants completed two tasks: an item-oriented task and a source-oriented task. We used functional MRI to investigate the neural mechanisms by which task orientation influences source encoding. We found that subsequent source memory effects in the right prefrontal cortex and hippocampus were modulated by task orientation, whereas task orientation modulated item memory effects in the prefrontal cortex. These findings highlight the possibility that the hippocampus contributes to the intentional encoding of item-source associations, whereas the prefrontal cortex is biased toward processing information to which attention is directed.Research Highlights
(1) Source memory effects in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus were modulated by task orientation.Research Highlights
(2) Item memory effects in the prefrontal cortex were modulated by task orientation.Research Highlights
(3) The hippocampus contributes to the intentional encoding of item-source associations.Research Highlights
(4) The prefrontal cortex is biased toward encoding and storing information to which attention is directed.Research Highlights
(5) The neuromechanisms underlying task orientation effects on source memory depend on various activation modes in the right prefrontal cortex and hippocampus.