Retrieval of associative information congruent with prior knowledge is related to increased medial prefrontal activity and connectivity

Marlieke T R van Kesteren, Mark Rijpkema, Dirk J Ruiter, Guillén Fernández

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We remember information that is congruent instead of incongruent with prior knowledge better, but the underlying neural mechanisms related to this enhancement are still relatively unknown. Recently, this memory enhancement due to a prior schema has been suggested to be based on rapid neocortical assimilation of new information, related to optimized encoding and consolidation processes. The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) is thought to be important in mediating this process, but its role in retrieval of schema-consistent information is still unclear. In this study, we regarded multisensory congruency with prior knowledge as a schema and used this factor to probe retrieval of consolidated memories either consistent or inconsistent with prior knowledge. We conducted a visuotactile learning paradigm in which participants studied visual motifs randomly associated with word-fabric combinations that were either congruent or incongruent with common knowledge. The next day, participants were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging while their memory was tested. Congruent associations were remembered better than incongruent ones. This behavioral finding was parallelized by stronger retrieval-related activity in and connectivity between medial prefrontal and left somatosensory cortex. Moreover, we found a positive across-subject correlation between the connectivity enhancement and the behavioral congruency effect. These results show that successful retrieval of congruent compared to incongruent visuotactile associations is related to enhanced processing in an mPFC-somatosensory network, and support the hypothesis that new information that fits a preexisting schema is more rapidly assimilated in neocortical networks, a process that may be mediated, at least in part, by the mPFC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15888-94
Number of pages7
JournalThe Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number47
Publication statusPublished - 24 Nov 2010


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Association Learning
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Recall
  • Neural Pathways
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Prefrontal Cortex
  • Young Adult
  • Comparative Study
  • Journal Article


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