Retrieval demands adaptively change striatal old/new signals and boost subsequent long-term memory

Nora A. Herweg, Tobias Sommer, Nico Bunzeck


The striatum is a central part of the dopaminergic mesolimbic system and contributes both to the encoding and retrieval of long-term memories. In this regard, the co-occurrence of striatal novelty and retrieval success effects in independent studies underlines the structure's double duty and suggests dynamic contextual adaptation. To test this hypothesis and further investigate the underlying mechanisms of encoding and retrieval dynamics, human subjects viewed pre-familiarized scene images intermixed with new scenes and classified them as indoor versus outdoor (encoding task) or old versus new (retrieval task), while fMRI and eye tracking data were recorded. Subsequently, subjects performed a final recognition task. As hypothesized, striatal activity and pupil size reflected task-conditional salience of old and new stimuli, but, unexpectedly, this effect was not reflected in the substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area (SN/VTA), medial temporal lobe, or subsequent memory performance. Instead, subsequent memory generally benefitted from retrieval, an effect possibly driven by task difficulty and activity in a network including different parts of the striatum and SN/VTA. Our findings extend memory models of encoding and retrieval dynamics by pinpointing a specific contextual factor that differentially modulates the functional properties of the mesolimbic system.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The mesolimbic system is involved in the encoding and retrieval of information but it is unclear how these two processes are achieved within the same network of brain regions. In particular, memory retrieval and novelty encoding were considered in independent studies, implying that novelty (new > old) and retrieval success (old > new) effects may co-occur in the striatum. Here, we used a common framework implicating the striatum, but not other parts of the mesolimbic system, in tracking context-dependent salience of old and new information. The current study, therefore, paves the way for a more comprehensive understanding of the functional properties of the mesolimbic system during memory encoding and retrieval.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Pages (from-to)1315-17
Number of pages3
Publication statusPublished - 07.12.2017

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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