Medial temporal contributions to successful face-name learning.
ABSTRACT The brain mechanisms that enable us to form durable associations between different types of information are not completely understood. Although the hippocampus is widely thought to play a substantial role in forming associations, the role of surrounding cortical regions in the medial temporal lobe, including perirhinal and parahippocampal cortex, is controversial. Using anatomically constrained functional magnetic resonance imaging, we assessed medial temporal contributions to learning arbitrary associations between faces and names. By sorting learning trials based on subsequent performance in associative and item-specific memory tests, we characterized brain activity associated with successful face-name associative learning. We found that right hippocampal activity was greater when corresponding face-name associations were subsequently remembered than when only a face or a name, but not both, were remembered, or when single-item information or associative information was not remembered. Neither perirhinal nor parahippocampal cortex encoding activity differed across these same conditions. Furthermore, right hippocampal activity during successful face-name association learning was strongly correlated with activity in cortical regions involved in multimodal integration, supporting the idea that interactions between the hippocampus and neocortex contribute to associative memory. These results specifically implicate the hippocampus in associative memory formation, in keeping with theoretical formulations in which contributions to across-domain binding differ among brain structures in the medial temporal region.