Neural conflict-control mechanisms improve memory for target stimuli.
According to conflict-monitoring models, conflict serves as an internal signal for reinforcing top-down attention to task-relevant information. While evidence based on measures of ongoing task performance supports this idea, implications for long-term consequences, that is, memory, have not been tested yet. Here, we evaluated the prediction that conflict-triggered attentional enhancement of target-stimulus processing should be associated with superior subsequent memory for those stimuli. By combining functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with a novel variant of a face-word Stroop task that employed trial-unique face stimuli as targets, we were able to assess subsequent (incidental) memory for target faces as a function of whether a given face had previously been accompanied by congruent, neutral, or incongruent (conflicting) distracters. In line with our predictions, incongruent distracters not only induced behavioral conflict, but also gave rise to enhanced memory for target faces. Moreover, conflict-triggered neural activity in prefrontal and parietal regions was predictive of subsequent retrieval success, and displayed conflict-enhanced functional coupling with medial-temporal lobe regions. These data provide support for the proposal that conflict evokes enhanced top-down attention to task-relevant stimuli, thereby promoting their encoding into long-term memory. Our findings thus delineate the neural mechanisms of a novel link between cognitive control and memory.
Krebs, RM; Boehler, CN; De Belder, M; Egner, T
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