Journal Article

The Emergence of Explicit Memory during Learning

Michael Rose, Hilde Haider and Christian Büchel

in Cerebral Cortex

Volume 20, issue 12, pages 2787-2797
Published in print December 2010 | ISSN: 1047-3211
Published online March 2010 | e-ISSN: 1460-2199 | DOI:
The Emergence of Explicit Memory during Learning

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In incidental learning situations, contingencies are extracted from the environment without the intention to learn and can change behavior without awareness for the extracted regularity. The development of explicit access to the learned regularity is an important learning mechanism that is rarely examined. With a series of behavioral, electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies, we were able to show that the emergence of awareness for a hidden regularity is accompanied by an increase in neural activity and in high-frequency coupling between distant brain areas as observed with a time–frequency resolved EEG analysis. More importantly, the increase in neural coupling was observed before awareness for the learned material was established behaviorally. In addition, coupling increases were paralleled by an fMRI-signal increase in the ventral striatum and the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex directly preceding the emergence of awareness. The involvement of this system, which has already been linked to the processing of predictions and prediction errors, indicates the relevance of a reinforcement signal to generate awareness for the learned contingencies. Thus, our data provide direct evidence for the necessity of large-scale coupling and the evaluation of a predictive stimulus value as the basis for a transition from implicit to explicit memory.

Keywords: EEG; fMRI; learning; memory

Journal Article.  8570 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neuroscience

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