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UCD: Human Memory Lab » Recognition Memory

Behavioral Properties and Neural Substrates

Recollection (i.e., the retrieval of qualitative information about a prior event) and familiarity (i.e., global memory strength) are separable recognition processes that exhibit distinct functional properties. For example, response speeding and dividing attention preferentially disrupt recollection, whereas fluency and response bias preferentially influence familiarity.



In addition, recollection leads to relatively linear Receiver Operating Characteristics (as seen in tests such as associative recognition), whereas familiarity produces curved symmetrical receiver operating characteristics (as seen in item recognition tests in amnesic patients).


Neuropsychological and neuroimaging studies have shown that recollection and familiarity rely on partially distinct brain networks. For example, fMRI studies have indicated that within the medial temporal lobe the hippocampus and the parahippocampal cortex are involved in recollection, whereas the rhinal cortex (i.e., perirhinal/entrorhinal) supports familiarity.



Similarly, patient studies have indicated that selective damage to the hippocampus leads to a selective recollection deficit, whereas damage to the rhinal cortex leads to a selective familiarity deficit.