Neural correlates of direct and indirect suppression of autobiographical memories
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Research indicates that there are two possible mechanisms by which particular target memories can be intentionally forgotten. Direct suppression, which involves the suppression of the unwanted memory directly, and is dependent on a fronto-hippocampal modulatory process, and, memory substitution, which includes directing one's attention to an alternative memory in order to prevent the unwanted memory from coming to mind, and involves engaging the caudal prefrontal cortex (cPFC) and the mid-ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) regions. Research to date, however, has investigated the neural basis of memory suppression of relatively simple information. The aim of the current study was to use fMRI to identify the neural mechanisms associated with the suppression of autobiographical memories. In the present study, 22 participants generated memories in response to a series of cue words. In a second session, participants learnt these cue-memory pairings, and were subsequently presented with a cue word and asked either to recall (think) or to suppress (no-think) the associated memory, or to think of an alternative memory in order to suppress the original memory (memory-substitution). Our findings demonstrated successful forgetting effects in the no-think and memory substitution conditions. Although we found no activation in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex there was reduced hippocampal activation during direct suppression. In the memory substitution condition, however, we failed to find increased activation in the cPFC and VLPFC regions. Our findings suggest that the suppression of autobiographical memories may rely on different neural mechanisms to those established for other types of material in memory.
Noreen , S , O'Connor , A R & MacLeod , M D 2016 , ' Neural correlates of direct and indirect suppression of autobiographical memories ' Frontiers in Psychology , vol. 7 , 379 . DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00379
Frontiers in Psychology
© 2016 Noreen, O’Connor and MacLeod. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
DescriptionWe would like to acknowledge The British Academy Leverhulme Research Grant in supporting this research (grant reference number –SG121177).
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