Is the parietal lobe necessary for recollection in humans?


An intriguing puzzle in cognitive neuroscience over recent years has been the common observation of parietal lobe activation in functional neuroimaging studies during the performance of human memory tasks. These findings have surprised scientists and clinicians because they challenge decades of established thinking that the parietal lobe does not support memory function. However, direct empirical investigation of whether circumscribed parietal lobe lesions might indeed be associated with human memory impairment has been lacking. Here we confirm using functional magnetic resonance imaging that significant parietal lobe activation is observed in healthy volunteers during a task assessing recollection of the context in which events previously occurred. However, patients with parietal lobe lesions that overlap closely with the regions activated in the healthy volunteers nevertheless exhibit normal performance on the same recollection task. Thus, although the processes subserved by the human parietal lobe appear to be recruited to support memory function, they are not a necessary requirement for accurate remembering to occur.