Abstract

Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) is thought to organize items in working memory and this organizational role may also influence long-term memory. To causally test this hypothesized role of DLPFC in long-term memory formation, we used -burst noninvasive stimulation (TBS) to modulate DLPFC involvement in a memory task that assessed the influence of active short-term retrieval on later memory. Human subjects viewed three objects on a grid and then either actively retrieved or passively restudied one object’s location after a brief delay. Long-term memory for the other objects was assessed after a delay to evaluate the beneficial role of active short-term retrieval on subsequent memory for the entire set of object locations. We found that DLPFC TBS had no significant effects on short-term memory. In contrast, DLPFC TBS impaired long-term memory selectively in the active-retrieval condition but not in the passive-restudy condition. These findings are consistent with the hypothesized contribution of DLPFC to the organizational processes operative during active short-term retrieval that influence long-term memory, although other regions that were not stimulated could provide similar contributions. Notably, active-retrieval and passive-restudy conditions were intermixed, and therefore nonspecific influences of stimulation were well controlled. These results suggest that DLPFC is causally involved in organizing event information during active retrieval to support coherent long-term memory formation.

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