Lower Parietal Encoding Activation Is Associated with Sharper Information and Better Memory

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Mean fMRI activation in ventral posterior parietal cortex (vPPC) during memory encoding often negatively predicts successful remembering. A popular interpretation of this phenomenon is that vPPC reflects “off-task” processing. However, recent fMRI studies considering distributed patterns of activity suggest that vPPC actively represents encoded material. Here, we assessed the relationships between pattern-based content representations in vPPC, mean activation in vPPC, and subsequent remembering. We analyzed data from two fMRI experiments where subjects studied then recalled word-face or word-scene associations. For each encoding trial, we measured 1) mean univariate activation within vPPC and 2) the strength of face/scene information as indexed by pattern analysis. Mean activation in vPPC negatively predicted subsequent remembering, but the strength of pattern-based information in the same vPPC voxels positively predicted later memory. Indeed, univariate amplitude averaged across vPPC voxels negatively correlated with pattern-based information strength. This dissociation reflected a tendency for univariate reductions to maximally occur in voxels that were not strongly tuned for the category of encoded stimuli. These results indicate that vPPC activity patterns reflect the content and quality of memory encoding and constitute a striking example of lower univariate activity corresponding to stronger pattern-based information.

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