Facilitating Memory for Novel Characters by Reducing Neural Repetition Suppression in the Left Fusiform Cortex
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Background -- The left midfusiform and adjacent regions have been implicated in processing and memorizing familiar words, yet its role in memorizing novel characters has not been well understood. Methodology/Principal Findings -- Using functional MRI, the present study examined the hypothesis that the left midfusiform is also involved in memorizing novel characters and spaced learning could enhance the memory by enhancing the left midfusiform activity during learning. Nineteen native Chinese readers were scanned while memorizing the visual form of 120 Korean characters that were novel to the subjects. Each character was repeated four times during learning. Repetition suppression was manipulated by using two different repetition schedules: massed learning and spaced learning, pseudo-randomly mixed within the same scanning session. Under the massed learning condition, the four repetitions were consecutive (with a jittered inter-repetition interval to improve the design efficiency). Under the spaced learning condition, the four repetitions were interleaved with a minimal inter-repetition lag of 6 stimuli. Spaced learning significantly improved participants' performance during the recognition memory test administered one hour after the scan. Stronger left midfusiform and inferior temporal gyrus activities during learning (summed across four repetitions) were associated with better memory of the characters, based on both within- and cross-subjects analyses. Compared to massed learning, spaced learning significantly reduced neural repetition suppression and increased the overall activities in these regions, which were associated with better memory for novel characters. Conclusions/Significance -- These results demonstrated a strong link between cortical activity in the left midfusiform and memory for novel characters, and thus challenge the visual word form area (VWFA) hypothesis. Our results also shed light on the neural mechanisms of the spacing effect in memorizing novel characters.
Gui Xue is with Beijing Normal University and University of Southern California, Leilei Mei is with Beijing Normal University and University of California Irvine, Chuansheng Chen is with University of California Irvine, Zhong-Lin Lu is with University of Southern California, Russell A. Poldrack is with UT Austin, Qi Dong is with Beijing Normal University.
CitationXue G, Mei L, Chen C, Lu Z-L, Poldrack RA, et al. (2010) Facilitating Memory for Novel Characters by Reducing Neural Repetition Suppression in the Left Fusiform Cortex. PLoS ONE 5(10): e13204. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013204
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