Putting the pieces together: The role of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in relational memory encoding

Robert S. Blumenfeld, Colleen M. Parks, Andrew P. Yonelinas, Charan Ranganath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Scopus citations


Results from fMRI have strongly supported the idea that the ventrolateral PFC (VLPFC) contributes to successful memory formation, but the role the dorsolateral PFC (DLPFC) in memory encoding is more controversial. Some findings suggest that the DLPFC is recruited when one is processing relationships between items in working memory, and this processing specifically promotes subsequent memory for these relationships. However, previous studies could not rule out the possibility that DLPFC promotes memory during all elaborative encoding conditions and contributes to memory on all subsequent associative memory tests. To address this question directly, we used fMRI to examine activity during two encoding tasks that prompted participants to encode either relational or item-specific information. On relational trials, participants imagined pairs of items interacting, whereas on item-specific trials, participants imagined the items spatially separated and in different sizes. After scanning, we examined memory for relational information and item-specific information. fMRI results showed that DLPFC activity specifically promoted memory for relational information during relational encoding and not memory for item-specific information during item-specific encoding. In contrast, activity in the VLPFC predicted memory for both relational and item-specific information. The present results are consistent with the idea that the DLPFC specifically contributes to successful memory formation through its role in building relationships among items.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)257-265
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Putting the pieces together: The role of dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in relational memory encoding'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this