Description: When encoding a real-life, continuous stimulus, the same neural circuits support processing and integration of prior as well as new incoming information. This ongoing interplay is modulated by attention, which is evident in the prefrontal cortex sections of the task positive network (TPN), and in the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), a hub of the default mode network (DMN). Yet the exact nature of such modulation is still unclear. To investigate this issue, we utilized an fMRI task that employed movies as the encoded stimuli and manipulated attentional load via an easy or hard secondary task that was performed simultaneously with encoding. Results showed increased intersubject correlation (inter-SC) levels when encoding movies in a condition of high, as compared to low attentional load. This was evident in bilateral ventrolateral and dorsomedial prefrontal cortices and the dorsal PCC (dPCC). These regions became more attuned to the combination of the movie and the secondary task as the attentional demand of the task increased. Activation analyses revealed that at higher load the frontal TPN regions were more activated, whereas the dPCC was more deactivated. Attentional load also influenced connectivity within and between the networks. At high load the dPCC was anti-correlated to the frontal regions, which were more functionally coherent amongst themselves. Finally and critically, greater inter-SC in the dPCC at high load during encoding predicted lower memory strength when that information was retrieved. This association between inter-SC levels and memory strength suggest that as attentional demands increased, the dPCC was more attuned to the secondary task at the expense of the encoded stimulus, thus weakening memory for the encoded stimulus. Together, our findings show that attentional load modulated the function of core TPN and DMN regions. Furthermore, the observed correlation between memory strength and the modulation of the dPCC points to this region as a key area involved in the manipulation of attentional load on memory function.
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