Direct brain recordings identify hippocampal and cortical networks that distinguish successful versus failed episodic memory retrieval

Ryan Joseph Tan, Michael D. Rugg, Bradley C. Lega

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Human data collected using noninvasive imaging techniques have established the importance of parietal regions towards episodic memory retrieval, including the angular gyrus and posterior cingulate cortex. Such regions comprise part of a putative core episodic retrieval network. In free recall, comparisons between contextually appropriate and inappropriate recall events (i.e. prior list intrusions) provide the opportunity to study memory retrieval networks supporting veridical recall, and existing findings predict that differences in electrical activity in these brain regions should be identified according to the accuracy of recall. However, prior iEEG studies, utilizing principally subdural grid electrodes, have not fully characterized brain activity in parietal regions during memory retrieval and have not examined connectivity between core recollection areas and the hippocampus or prefrontal cortex. Here, we employed a data set obtained from 100 human patients implanted with stereo EEG electrodes for seizure mapping purposes as they performed a free recall task. This data set allowed us to separately analyze activity in midline versus lateral parietal brain regions, and in anterior versus posterior hippocampus, to identify areas in which retrieval-related activity predicted the recollection of a correct versus an incorrect memory. With the wide coverage afforded by the stereo EEG approach, we were also able to examine interregional connectivity. Our key findings were that differences in gamma band activity in the angular gyrus, precuneus, posterior temporal cortex, and posterior (more than anterior) hippocampus discriminated accurate versus inaccurate recall as well as active retrieval versus memory search. The left angular gyrus exhibited a significant power decrease preceding list intrusions as well as unique phase–amplitude coupling properties, whereas the prefrontal cortex was unique in exhibiting a power increase during list intrusions. Analysis of connectivity revealed significant hemispheric asymmetry, with relatively sparse left-sided functional connections compared to the right hemisphere. One exception to this finding was elevated connectivity between the prefrontal cortex and left angular gyrus. This finding is interpreted as evidence for the engagement of prefrontal cortex in memory monitoring and mnemonic decision-making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107595
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • Core recollection network
  • Gamma oscillations
  • Intracranial EEG
  • Phase synchrony
  • Phase–amplitude coupling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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