Although there is widespread agreement that the hippocampus is critical for explicit episodic memory retrieval, it is controversial whether this region can also support indirect expressions of relational memory when explicit retrieval fails. Here, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with concurrent indirect, eye-movement-based memory measures, we obtained evidence that hippocampal activity predicted expressions of relational memory in subsequent patterns of viewing, even when explicit, conscious retrieval failed. Additionally, activity in the lateral prefrontal cortex and functional connectivity between the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex were greater for correct than for incorrect trials. Together, these results suggest that hippocampal activity can support the expression of relational memory even when explicit retrieval fails and that recruitment of a broader cortical network may be required to support explicit associative recognition.
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