Scientific article

Fake or fantasy: rapid dissociation between strategic content monitoring and reality filtering in human memory

Published inCerebral cortex, vol. 21, no. 11, p. 2589-2598
Publication date2011

Memory verification is crucial for meaningful behavior. Orbitofrontal damage may impair verification and induce confabulation and inappropriate acts. The strategic retrieval account explains this state by deficient monitoring of memories' precise content, whereas the reality filter hypothesis explains it by a failure of an orbitofrontal mechanism suppressing the interference of memories that do not pertain to reality. The distinctiveness of these mechanisms has recently been questioned. Here, we juxtaposed these 2 mechanisms using high-resolution evoked potentials in healthy subjects who performed 2 runs of a continuous recognition task which contained pictures that precisely matched or only resembled previous pictures. We found behavioral and electrophysiological dissociation: Strategic content monitoring was maximally challenged by stimuli resembling previous ones, whereas reality filtering was maximally challenged by identical stimuli. Evoked potentials dissociated at 200-300 ms: Strategic monitoring induced a strong frontal negativity and a distinct cortical map configuration, which were particularly weakly expressed in reality filtering. Recognition of real repetitions was expressed at 300-400 ms, associated with ventromedial prefrontal activation. Thus, verification of a memory's concordance with the past (its content) dissociates from the verification of its concordance with the present. The role of these memory control mechanisms in the generation of confabulations and disorientation is discussed.

  • Adult
  • Brain/physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials/physiology
  • Fantasy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory/physiology
  • Young Adult
Research group
Citation (ISO format)
BOUZERDA-WAHLEN, Aurélie et al. Fake or fantasy: rapid dissociation between strategic content monitoring and reality filtering in human memory. In: Cerebral cortex, 2011, vol. 21, n° 11, p. 2589–2598. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhr049
Main files (1)
Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal1047-3211

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