Description: Building consistent 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 in stimulus-specific brain regions. This process is proposed to yield integration of new with old memories, supported by the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and medial temporal lobe (MTL). Possibly as a consequence, congruency of new information with prior knowledge is known to enhance subsequent memory. Yet, it is unknown how reactivation and congruency interact to optimize memory integration processes that lead to knowledge schemas. To investigate this question, we here 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 their common association with A (an unknown pseudoword). BC-associations were either congruent or incongruent with prior knowledge (e.g. a bathduck or a hammer in a bathroom), and participants were asked to report subjective reactivation strength for B while learning AC. Behaviorally, both the congruency and reactivation measures enhanced memory integration. In the brain, these behavioral effects related to univariate and multivariate parametric effects of congruency and reactivation on activity patterns in the MTL, mPFC, and Parahippocampal Place Area (PPA). Moreover, mPFC exhibited larger connectivity with the PPA for more congruent associations. These outcomes provide insights into the neural mechanisms underlying memory integration enhancement, which can be important for educational learning.
Related article: http://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-61737-1
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