Comparison of neural activity that leads to true memories, false memories, and forgetting: An fMRI study of the misinformation effect

Abstract

False memories can occur when people are exposed to misinformation about a past event. Of interest here are the neural mechanisms of this type of memory failure. In the present study, participants viewed photographic vignettes of common activities during an original event phase (OEP), while we monitored their brain activity using fMRI. Later, in a misinformation phase, participants viewed sentences describing the studied photographs, some of which contained information conflicting with that depicted in the photographs. One day later, participants returned for a surprise item memory recognition test for the content of the photographs. Results showed reliable creation of false memories, in that participants reported information that had been presented in the verbal misinformation but not in the photographs. Several regions were more active during the OEP for later accurate memory than for forgetting, but they were also more active for later false memories, indicating that false memories in this paradigm are not simply caused by failure to encode the original event. There was greater activation in the ventral visual stream for subsequent true memories than for subsequent false memories, however, suggesting that differences in encoding may contribute to later susceptibility to misinformation.

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Correspondence to Carol L. Baym.

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C.L.B. was supported by the Department of Defense through the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship Program.

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Baym, C.L., Gonsalves, B.D. Comparison of neural activity that leads to true memories, false memories, and forgetting: An fMRI study of the misinformation effect. Cognitive, Affective, & Behavioral Neuroscience 10, 339–348 (2010). https://doi.org/10.3758/CABN.10.3.339

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Keywords

  • False Memory
  • Medial Temporal Lobe
  • Visual Imagery
  • Critical Item
  • Critical Trial