Reactivation of neural patterns during memory reinstatement supports encoding specificity

Simon Hanslmayr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
315 Downloads (Pure)


Encoding specificity states that encoding and retrieving items in the same modality benefits memory, compared to encoding and retrieving in different modalities. In neural terms, this can be expressed as memory cues resonating with stored engrams; the more they overlap the better memory performance. We used temporal pattern analysis in MEG in a sensory match/mismatch memory paradigm (i.e., items presented aurally or visually) to track this resonance process. A computational model predicted that reactivation of encoding-related sensory patterns has opposing effects depending on the match or mismatch between memory cue and encoding modality. Behavioral performance was
better in the match than the mismatch condition. Neural pattern reinstatement of MEG activitybenefitted memory only in the match condition, but impaired memory in the mismatch condition. These effects were only obtained for aurally but not visually encoded words. The results suggest that reactivation of encoding-related neural patterns underlies encoding specificity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-185
JournalCognitive Neuroscience
Issue number4
Early online date12 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2019


  • MEG
  • Memory reactivation
  • context memory
  • encoding specificity
  • oscillations
  • phase similarity
  • transfer appropriate processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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