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International Journal of Biomedical Imaging
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 579786, 11 pages
Research Article

Modulating the Focus of Attention for Spoken Words at Encoding Affects Frontoparietal Activation for Incidental Verbal Memory

1Department of Speech, Language & Hearing Sciences, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA
2Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, New York University, NY 10012, USA

Received 15 April 2011; Revised 20 August 2011; Accepted 24 August 2011

Academic Editor: Ramin Parsey

Copyright © 2012 Thomas A. Christensen et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Attention is crucial for encoding information into memory, and current dual-process models seek to explain the roles of attention in both recollection memory and incidental-perceptual memory processes. The present study combined an incidental memory paradigm with event-related functional MRI to examine the effect of attention at encoding on the subsequent neural activation associated with unintended perceptual memory for spoken words. At encoding, we systematically varied attention levels as listeners heard a list of single English nouns. We then presented these words again in the context of a recognition task and assessed the effect of modulating attention at encoding on the BOLD responses to words that were either attended strongly, weakly, or not heard previously. MRI revealed activity in right-lateralized inferior parietal and prefrontal regions, and positive BOLD signals varied with the relative level of attention present at encoding. Temporal analysis of hemodynamic responses further showed that the time course of BOLD activity was modulated differentially by unintentionally encoded words compared to novel items. Our findings largely support current models of memory consolidation and retrieval, but they also provide fresh evidence for hemispheric differences and functional subdivisions in right frontoparietal attention networks that help shape auditory episodic recall.