Parietal lobe critically supports successful paired immediate and single-item delayed memory for targets

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The parietal lobe is important for successful recognition memory, but its role is not yet fully understood. We investigated the parietal lobes’ contribution to immediate paired-associate memory and delayed item-recognition memory separately for hits (targets) and correct rejections (distractors). We compared the behavioral performance of 56 patients with known parietal and medial temporal lobe dysfunction (i.e. early Alzheimer's Disease) to 56 healthy control participants in an immediate paired and delayed single item object memory task. Additionally, we performed voxel-based morphometry analyses to investigate the functional-neuroanatomic relationships between performance and voxel-based estimates of atrophy in whole-brain analyses. Behaviorally, all participants performed better identifying targets than rejecting distractors. The voxel-based morphometry analyses associated atrophy in the right ventral parietal cortex with fewer correct responses to familiar items (i.e. hits) in the immediate and delayed conditions. Additionally, medial temporal lobe integrity correlated with better performance in rejecting distractors, but not in identifying targets, in the immediate paired-associate task. Our findings suggest that the parietal lobe critically supports successful immediate and delayed target recognition memory, and that the ventral aspect of the parietal cortex and the medial temporal lobe may have complementary preferences for identifying targets and rejecting distractors, respectively, during recognition memory.

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