Distinct neural mechanisms underlie the success, precision, and vividness of episodic memory.
A network of brain regions have been linked with episodic memory retrieval, but limited progress has been made in identifying the contributions of distinct parts of the network. Here, we utilized continuous measures of retrieval to dissociate three components of episodic memory: retrieval success, precision, and vividness. In the fMRI scanner, participants encoded objects that varied continuously on three features: color, orientation, and location. Participants' memory was tested by having them recreate the appearance of the object features using a continuous dial, and continuous vividness judgments were recorded. Retrieval success, precision, and vividness were dissociable both behaviorally and neurally: successful versus unsuccessful retrieval was associated with hippocampal activity, retrieval precision scaled with activity in the angular gyrus, and vividness judgments tracked activity in the precuneus. The ability to dissociate these components of episodic memory reveals the benefit afforded by measuring memory on a continuous scale, allowing functional parcellation of the retrieval network.