Novel scenes improve recollection and recall of words

Daniela B. Fenker, Julietta U. Frey, Hartmut Schuetze, Dorothee Heipertz, Hans Jochen Heinze, Emrah Duzel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Exploring a novel environment can facilitate subsequent hippocampal long-term potentiation in animals. We report a related behavioral enhancement in humans. In two separate experiments, recollection and free recall, both measures of hippocampus-dependent memory formation, were enhanced for words studied after a 5-min exposure to unrelated novel as opposed to familiar images depicting indoor and outdoor scenes. With functional magnetic resonance imaging, the enhancement was predicted by specific activity patterns observed during novelty exposure in parahippocampal and dorsal prefrontal cortices, regions which are known to be linked to attentional orienting to novel stimuli and perceptual processing of scenes. Novelty was also associated with activation of the substantia nigra/ventral teg-mental area of the midbrain and the hippocampus, but these activations did not correlate with contextual memory enhancement. These findings indicate remarkable parallels between contextual memory enhancement in humans and existing evidence regarding contextually enhanced hippocampal plasticity in animals. They provide specific behavioral clues to enhancing hippocampus-dependent memory in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1250-1265
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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