Regional brain activity during shape recognition impaired by a scopolamine challenge to encoding


: Dr A.-M. Rosier, as above.


In the present positron emission tomography (PET) study, we examine the effect of a scopolamine-induced challenge to encoding upon the pattern of regional cerebral blood flow during recognition of a list of abstract visual shapes 3 days after encoding of these shapes. This study was conducted to test hypotheses concerning the fusiform and thalamic contributions to object recognition arising from a previous imaging study of impaired recognition. In that study, we demonstrated that activity in the fusiform cortex and the thalamus during shape recognition was modulated by memory challenges. These memory challenges included, on one hand, impaired storage as a consequence of diazepam administration during encoding, and, on the other hand, impaired retrieval caused by a perceptual challenge. Activation in the fusiform cortex decreased during impaired recognition, irrespective of the type of challenge. In contrast, thalamic activation increased only when the recognition deficit resulted from impaired memory storage. Based on these results, we hypothesized that fusiform activation during recognition reflects the matching of an incoming stimulus with a stored one, whereas thalamic activation reflects retrieval attempts. These hypotheses would receive considerable support if scopolamine, which also impairs memory storage, induced similar modulations of fusiform and thalamic activation. In the present study, we observed that a scopolamine challenge to encoding does indeed modulate the activity in the very same regions that were previously modulated by a diazepam challenge. Hence, a similar memory deficit, although primarily effected through different neurochemical pathways, was paralleled by a similar modulation of activity in the same set of nodes in the shape recognition network. In the fusiform cortex, scopolamine decreased recognition-related activity, as did the sensory challenge of retrieval. Furthermore, covariate analysis demonstrated that the level of fusiform activity linearly correlates with behavioural performance. In the thalamus, activation increased following impaired encoding. This is in accordance with the idea that enhanced thalamic activity reflects increased effort expended in retrieval. In addition, in the intraparietal sulcus, differential activation also increased following impaired memory storage, possibly reflecting enhanced visuospatial attention in an effort to compensate for impaired performance.