The increase in medial prefrontal glutamate/glutamine concentration during memory encoding is associated with better memory performance and stronger functional connectivity in the human medial prefrontal–thalamus–hippocampus network

Jan-Willem Thielen (Corresponding Author), Donghyun Hong, Seyedmorteza Rohani Rankouhi, Jens Wiltfang, Guillén Fernández, David G. Norris, Indira Tendolkar

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The classical model of the declarative memory system describes the hippocampus and its interactions with representational brain areas in posterior neocortex as being essential for the formation of long-term episodic memories. However, new evidence suggests an extension of this classical model by assigning the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) a specific, yet not fully defined role in episodic memory. In this study, we utilized 1H magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and psychophysiological interaction (PPI) analysis to lend further support for the idea of a mnemonic role of the mPFC in humans. By using MRS, we measured mPFC γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate/glutamine (GLx) concentrations before and after volunteers memorized face–name association. We demonstrate that mPFC GLx but not GABA levels increased during the memory task, which appeared to be related to memory performance. Regarding functional connectivity, we used the subsequent memory paradigm and found that the GLx increase was associated with stronger mPFC connectivity to thalamus and hippocampus for associations subsequently recognized with high confidence as opposed to subsequently recognized with low confidence/forgotten. Taken together, we provide new evidence for an mPFC involvement in episodic memory by showing a memory-related increase in mPFC excitatory neurotransmitter levels that was associated with better memory and stronger memory-related functional connectivity in a medial prefrontal–thalamus–hippocampus network.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2381-2390
Number of pages10
JournalHuman brain mapping
Issue number6
Early online date27 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2018



  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • functional connectivity
  • GABA
  • glutamate
  • hippocampus
  • medial prefrontal
  • memory
  • MR spectroscopy
  • network
  • thalamus
  • fMRI

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