The prioritized encoding and retrieval of valuable information is an essential aspect of human memory. We used electroencephalography (EEG) to determine which of two hypothesized processes underlies the influence of reward value on episodic memory. One hypothesis is that value engages prefrontal executive control processes, so that valuable stimuli engage an elaborative rehearsal strategy that benefits memory. A second hypothesis is that value acts through the reward-related midbrain dopamine system to modulate synaptic plasticity in hippocampal and cortical efferents, thereby benefiting memory encoding. We used a value-directed recognition memory (VDR) paradigm in which participants encoded words assigned different point values and aimed to maximize the point value of subsequently recognized words. Subjective states of recollection (i.e., “remember”) and familiarity (i.e., “know”) were assessed at retrieval. Words assigned higher values at study were recognized more effectively than words assigned lower values, due to increased “remember” responses but no difference in “know” responses. Greater value was also associated with larger amplitudes of an EEG component at retrieval that indexes recollection (parietal old/new component), but had no relationship with a component that indexes familiarity (FN400 component). During encoding, we assessed a late frontal positivity (frontal slow wave, FSW) that has been related to elaborative rehearsal strategies and an early parietal component (P3) thought to index dopamine driven attention allocation. Our findings indicate that the effect of value on recognition memory is primarily driven by the dopamine-driven reward valuation system (P3) with no discernible effect on rehearsal processes (FSW).
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cognitive Neuroscience