Perceptual priming is a fundamental long-term memory capability that allows more efficient and faster responding to a stimulus as a result of prior exposure to that stimulus. The two major components of priming are facilitated response expression and improved stimulus identification. Recent fMRI studies have identified a potential neural correlate for response-facilitation, namely the repetition-related activity decrements in prefrontal cortex that are linearly correlated with improvements in reaction times. However, the neural processes underlying such response-facilitation are still unclear. They could be stimulus-selective stimulus-response mapping processes or general response-learning mechanisms. In human imaging studies, behavioral priming has been associated with decreased hemodynamic responses in prefrontal cortex and in category-specific brain regions of the ventral visual stream. Currently, it is unclear whether priming-related response decreases in prefrontal cortex are also category-specific. In this fMRI study, 16 subjects performed a repetition priming task employing category-specific identification judgments on pictures of faces (male/female judgment), scenes (indoor/outdoor judgment) and scrambled 'noise' pictures (simple button press). The repeated faces and scenes were identified faster than first presentations indicating priming. Hemodynamic decreases for repetitions were observed in a left inferior (near Brodman Area, BA, 44) and middle frontal (BA8) region of the prefrontal cortex, in category-specific areas of the ventral stream (bilateral fusiform face area, FFA, parahippocampal place area, PPA), and two category-specific right lateral occipital (LOC) regions. Hemodynamic increases for repetitions appeared in the caudate and cerebellum. However, the prefrontal areas were the only regions that showed a correlation between repetition-related reaction time improvement and hemodynamic decrease. Importantly, the correlations were category-specific in their relationship to reaction time improvement: in the left inferior frontal cortex the correlations were specific for scenes whereas and in left middle frontal gyrus they were specific for faces. There were no correlations between behavior and repetition suppression for both LOC regions, FFA and PPA. These data reveal that response-facilitation in prefrontal cortex is organized according to stimulus-properties, compatible with learning of stimulus-response mapping rather than response learning in general.
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|Published - 2006