Congruency and reactivation aid memory integration through reinstatement of prior knowledge

Marlieke T.R. van Kesteren*, Paul Rignanese, Pierre G. Gianferrara, Lydia Krabbendam, Martijn Meeter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Building knowledge schemas that organize information and guide future learning is of great importance in everyday life. Such knowledge building is suggested to occur through reinstatement of prior knowledge during new learning, yielding integration of new with old memories supported by the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and medial temporal lobe (MTL). Congruency with prior knowledge is also known to enhance subsequent memory. Yet, how reactivation and congruency interact to optimize memory integration is unknown. To investigate this question, we used an adapted AB-AC inference paradigm in combination with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Participants first studied an AB-association followed by an AC-association, so B (a scene) and C (an object) were indirectly linked through A (a pseudoword). BC-associations were either congruent or incongruent with prior knowledge (e.g. bathduck or hammer in a bathroom), and participants reported subjective B-reactivation strength while learning AC. Behaviorally, both congruency and reactivation enhanced memory integration. In the brain, these behavioral effects related to univariate and multivariate parametric effects in the MTL, mPFC, and Parahippocampal Place Area (PPA). Moreover, mPFC exhibited larger PPA-connectivity for more congruent associations. These outcomes provide insights into the neural mechanisms underlying memory enhancement, which has value for educational learning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4776
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Early online date16 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


We would like to thank all participants for their time, Lianne de Vries for rating the associative recall performance, the staff at the Spinoza Centre for Neuroimaging, and many colleagues for support with analyses. We also thank Laura de Herde from the University of Birmingham for help with analyses. The authors declare no competing financial and non-financial interests. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 704506.

FundersFunder number
Marie Sklodowska-Curie
Horizon 2020 Framework Programme704506


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