Objectives. – Studies on the relation between local cerebral activation and retrieval success usually compared high and low performance conditions, and thus showed performance-related activation of different brain areas. Only a few studies directly compared signal intensities of different response categories during retrieval. During verbal recognition, we recently observed increased parieto-occipital activation related to false alarms. The present study intends to replicate and extend this observation by investigating common and differential activation by veridical and false recognition.
Methods. – Fifteen healthy volunteers performed a verbal recognition paradigm using 160 learned target and 160 new distracter words. The subjects had to indicate whether they had learned the word before or not. Echo-planar MRI of blood-oxygen-level-dependent signal changes was performed during this recognition task. Words were classified post hoc according to the subjects’ responses, i.e. hits, false alarms, correct rejections and misses. Response-related fMRI-analysis was used to compare activation associated with the subjects’ recognition success, i.e. signal intensities related to the presentation of words were compared by the above-mentioned four response types.
Results. – During recognition, all word categories showed increased bilateral activation of the inferior frontal gyrus, the inferior temporal gyrus, the occipital lobe and the brainstem in comparison with the control condition. Hits and false alarms activated several areas including the left medial and lateral parieto-occipital cortex in comparison with subjectively unknown items, i.e. correct rejections and misses. Hits showed more pronounced activation in the medial, false alarms in the lateral parts of the left parieto-occipital cortex.
Conclusions. – Veridical and false recognition show common as well as different areas of cerebral activation in the left parieto-occipital lobe: increased activation of the medial parietal cortex by hits may correspond to true recognition, increased activation of the parieto-occipital cortex by false alarms may correspond to familiarity decisions. Further studies are needed to investigate the reasons for false decisions in healthy subjects and patients with memory problems.