Hippocampus is place of interaction between unconscious and conscious memories retrieval

Züst, Marc (November 2014). Hippocampus is place of interaction between unconscious and conscious memories retrieval (Unpublished). In: Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. Washington, D.C.. 15.11-19.11.2014.

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Recent experiments suggest that humans can form and later retrieve new semantic relations unconsciously by way of hippocampus - the key structure thought to support conscious relational (episodic) memory. Given that the hippocampus subserves both conscious and unconscious relational encoding/retrieval, we expected the hippocampus to be place of unconscious-conscious interactions. This hypothesis was tested in an fMRI experiment on the interaction between the unconscious retrieval of face-associated occupations and the subsequent conscious retrieval of celebrities’ occupations. For subliminal encoding, masked combinations of an unfamiliar face and a written occupation (“actor” or “politician”) were subliminally presented. At test, we presented the former subliminal faces again, without occupations and masks, as conscious retrieval cues. We hypothesized that faces would trigger the unconscious reactivation of the associated occupation - actor or politician -, which in turn would facilitate or inhibit the subsequent conscious recollection of a celebrity’s occupation. Following the presentation of a former subliminal face, we presented the portrait of a celebrity that participants were required to sort according to “actor” or “politician”. Depending on whether the triggered unconscious occupation was congruent or incongruent with the celebrity’s occupation, we expected an expedited or retarded conscious retrieval process as reflected in reaction times. Conscious retrieval was expedited in the congruent condition, but there was no effect in the incongruent condition. fMRI data collected during subliminal relational encoding confirmed that the hippocampus was interacting with neocortical semantic storage sites. fMRI data collected at test indicated that the facilitated conscious retrieval of celebrity-associated occupations was related to deactivations in this same network spanning hippocampus and neocortical semantic storage sites. Hence, unconscious retrieval likely preactivated this network, which allowed for a sparing recruitment of additional neural resources to assist conscious retrieval. This finding supports the notion that consciously and unconsciously acquired relational memories are stored in a single, cohesive hippocampal-neocortical memory space.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Radiology, Neuroradiology and Nuclear Medicine (DRNN) > Institute of Diagnostic and Interventional Neuroradiology
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Psychological and Behavioral Health
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Social Neuroscience and Social Psychology
10 Strategic Research Centers > Center for Cognition, Learning and Memory (CCLM)

UniBE Contributor:

Züst, Marc


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology




Anna Maria Ruprecht Künzli

Date Deposited:

07 Apr 2015 13:46

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:44



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