Probing the brain substrates of cognitive processes responsible for context effects on recognition memory

Eli Vakil, Tal Raz, Daniel A. Levy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Context effects on episodic recognition memory involve separable contributions of target-context binding, additive familiarity, and configural constancy. Here we examine whether these factors reflect contributions of processes attributed to different brain substrates. First, we challenged frontal and medial temporal lobe-based cognitive capacities in healthy young adults, employing divided attention tasks at encoding and retrieval, and extended retrieval delay, respectively. Target-context binding effects were specifically attenuated by delay, but not by divided attention. In a second experiment, older adults were identified by neuropsychological testing as having different levels of frontal and medial temporal lobe-dependent cognitive functions. Consistent with Experiment 1, older adults with low medial temporal lobe function exhibited reduced target-context binding effects, but levels of frontal function did not modulate binding effects. These findings indicate that unlike source memory, context effects on memory are associated with the integrity of medial temporal lobe-based processes but not with the integrity of frontal lobe-based processes. Our findings also emphasize the importance of discriminating between functional subgroups in the attempt to characterize memory processes in older adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)519-544
Number of pages26
JournalAging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2010


  • Aging
  • Association
  • Context effect
  • Frontal lobe
  • Medial temporal lobe
  • Source memory


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