Task-specific repetition priming in left inferior prefrontal cortex

Anthony D. Wagner*, Wilma Koutstaal, Anat Maril, Daniel L. Schacter, Randy L. Buckner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

229 Scopus citations


Previous neuroimaging studies have shown that activation in left inferior prefrontal cortices (LIPC) is reduced during repeated (primed) relative to initial (unprimed) stimulus processing. These reductions in anterior (~BA 45/47) and posterior (~BA 44/6) LIPC activation have been interpreted as reflecting implicit memory for initial semantic or phonological processing. However, prior studies do not unambiguously indicate that LIPC priming effects are specific to the recapitulation of higher-level (semantic and/or phonological), rather than lower-level (perceptual), processes. Moreover, no prior study has shown that the patterns of priming in anterior and posterior LIPC regions are dissociable. To address these issues, the present fMRI study examined the nature of priming in LIPC by examining the task-specificity of these effects. Participants initially processed words in either a semantic or a nonsemantic manner. Subsequently, participants were scanned while they made semantic decisions about words that had been previously processed in a semantic manner (within-task repetition), words that had been previously processed in a nonsemantic manner (across-task repetition), and words that had net been previously processed (novel words). Behaviorally, task-specific priming was observed: reaction times to make the semantic decision declined following prier semantic processing but not following prior nonsemantic processing of a word. Priming in anterior UPC paralleled these results with signal reductions being observed following within-task, but not following across-task, repetition. Importantly, neural priming in posterior LIPC demonstrated a different pattern: priming was observed following both within-task and across-task repetition, with the magnitude of priming tending to be greater in the within-task condition. Direct comparison between anterior and posterior LIPC regions revealed a significant interaction. These findings indicate that anterior and posterior UPC demonstrate distinct patterns of priming, with priming in the anterior region being task-specific, suggesting that this facilitation derives from repeated semantic processing of a stimulus.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1176-1184
Number of pages9
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


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