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Unconscious relational inference recruits the hippocampus


Reber, T P; Luechinger, R; Boesiger, P; Henke, K (2012). Unconscious relational inference recruits the hippocampus. Journal of Neuroscience, 32(18):6138-6148.

Abstract

Relational inference denotes the capacity to encode, flexibly retrieve, and integrate multiple memories to combine past experiences to update knowledge and improve decision-making in new situations. Although relational inference is thought to depend on the hippocampus and consciousness, we now show in young, healthy men that it may occur outside consciousness but still recruits the hippocampus. In temporally distinct and unique subliminal episodes, we presented word pairs that either overlapped (“winter–red”, “red–computer”) or not. Effects of unconscious relational inference emerged in reaction times recorded during unconscious encoding and in the outcome of decisions made 1 min later at test, when participants judged the semantic relatedness of two supraliminal words. These words were either episodically related through a common word (“winter–computer” related through “red”) or unrelated. Hippocampal activity increased during the unconscious encoding of overlapping versus nonoverlapping word pairs and during the unconscious retrieval of episodically related versus unrelated words. Furthermore, hippocampal activity during unconscious encoding predicted the outcome of decisions made at test. Hence, unconscious inference may influence decision-making in new situations.

Abstract

Relational inference denotes the capacity to encode, flexibly retrieve, and integrate multiple memories to combine past experiences to update knowledge and improve decision-making in new situations. Although relational inference is thought to depend on the hippocampus and consciousness, we now show in young, healthy men that it may occur outside consciousness but still recruits the hippocampus. In temporally distinct and unique subliminal episodes, we presented word pairs that either overlapped (“winter–red”, “red–computer”) or not. Effects of unconscious relational inference emerged in reaction times recorded during unconscious encoding and in the outcome of decisions made 1 min later at test, when participants judged the semantic relatedness of two supraliminal words. These words were either episodically related through a common word (“winter–computer” related through “red”) or unrelated. Hippocampal activity increased during the unconscious encoding of overlapping versus nonoverlapping word pairs and during the unconscious retrieval of episodically related versus unrelated words. Furthermore, hippocampal activity during unconscious encoding predicted the outcome of decisions made at test. Hence, unconscious inference may influence decision-making in new situations.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Biomedical Engineering
Dewey Decimal Classification:170 Ethics
610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:2012
Deposited On:14 Feb 2013 09:43
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:26
Publisher:Society for Neuroscience
ISSN:0270-6474
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5639-11.2012

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