Neural markers of inhibition in human memory retrieval

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Karl-Heinz Bäuml
  • Zara Bergström
  • Gerasimos Markopoulos
  • Hans-Jochen Heinze
  • Alan Richardson-Klavehn

Colleges, School and Institutes


Retrieving particular information from memory facilitates the later retrieval of that information, but also impairs the later retrieval of related, interfering information. It has been theorized that this retrieval-induced forgetting reflects inhibition of interfering memory representations. We used event-related fMRI to investigate the functional neuroanatomy of this impaired retrieval, at the time the impairment is observed. Neural activity differences between impaired and facilitated information occurred in left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC, BA 45 and 47), precuneus (BA 7), and right inferior parietal lobule (IPL, BA 40). Activity in left anterior VLPFC (BA 47) and left posterior temporal cortex (BA 22), regions implicated in the controlled retrieval of weak semantic memory representations, predicted the degree of retrieval-induced forgetting. In contrast, activity in precuneus and right IPL predicted the degree of retrieval-induced facilitation. Our findings demonstrate that impairment of interfering memories and facilitation of practiced memories involve distinct neural processes, and suggest that the impairment reflects inhibition that weakens interfering memory representations.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13419-27
Number of pages9
JournalThe Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number50
Publication statusPublished - 10 Dec 2008


  • Adult, Brain, Brain Mapping, Female, Humans, Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Male, Memory, Neural Inhibition, Neurons