Instruction-specific brain activations during episodic encoding: A generalized level of processing effect

Petersson, K. M., Sandblom, J., Elfgren, C., & Ingvar, M. (2003). Instruction-specific brain activations during episodic encoding: A generalized level of processing effect. Neuroimage, 20, 1795-1810. doi:10.1016/S1053-8119(03)00414-2.
In a within-subject design we investigated the levels-of-processing (LOP) effect using visual material in a behavioral and a corresponding PET study. In the behavioral study we characterize a generalized LOP effect, using pleasantness and graphical quality judgments in the encoding situation, with two types of visual material, figurative and nonfigurative line drawings. In the PET study we investigate the related pattern of brain activations along these two dimensions. The behavioral results indicate that instruction and material contribute independently to the level of recognition performance. Therefore the LOP effect appears to stem both from the relative relevance of the stimuli (encoding opportunity) and an altered processing of stimuli brought about by the explicit instruction (encoding mode). In the PET study, encoding of visual material under the pleasantness (deep) instruction yielded left lateralized frontoparietal and anterior temporal activations while surface-based perceptually oriented processing (shallow instruction) yielded right lateralized frontoparietal, posterior temporal, and occipitotemporal activations. The result that deep encoding was related to the left prefrontal cortex while shallow encoding was related to the right prefrontal cortex, holding the material constant, is not consistent with the HERA model. In addition, we suggest that the anterior medial superior frontal region is related to aspects of self-referential semantic processing and that the inferior parts of the anterior cingulate as well as the medial orbitofrontal cortex is related to affective processing, in this case pleasantness evaluation of the stimuli regardless of explicit semantic content. Finally, the left medial temporal lobe appears more actively engaged by elaborate meaning-based processing and the complex response pattern observed in different subregions of the MTL lends support to the suggestion that this region is functionally segregated.
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