How landmark suitability shapes recognition memory signals for objects in the medial temporal lobes

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Abstract

A role of perirhinal cortex (PrC) in recognition memory for objects has been well established. Contributions of parahippocampal cortex (PhC) to this function, while documented, remain less well understood. Here, we used fMRI to examine whether the organization of item-based recognition memory signals across these two structures is shaped by object category, independent of any difference in representing episodic context. Guided by research suggesting that PhC plays a critical role in processing landmarks, we focused on three categories of objects that differ from each other in their landmark suitability as confirmed with behavioral ratings (buildings > trees > aircraft). Participants made item-based recognition-memory decisions for novel and previously studied objects from these categories, which were matched in accuracy. Multi-voxel pattern classification revealed category-specific item-recognition memory signals along the long axis of PrC and PhC, with no sharp functional boundaries between these structures. Memory signals for buildings were observed in the mid to posterior extent of PhC, signals for trees in anterior to posterior segments of PhC, and signals for aircraft in mid to posterior aspects of PrC and the anterior extent of PhC. Notably, item-based memory signals for the category with highest landmark suitability ratings were observed only in those posterior segments of PhC that also allowed for classification of landmark suitability of objects when memory status was held constant. These findings provide new evidence in support of the notion that item-based memory signals for objects are not limited to PrC, and that the organization of these signals along the longitudinal axis that crosses PrC and PhC can be captured with reference to landmark suitability.

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