It is well-established that whether the information will be remembered or not depends on the extent to which the learning context is reinstated during post-encoding rest and/or at retrieval. It has yet to be determined, however, if the fundamental importance of contextual reinstatement to memory extends to periods of spontaneous neurocognitive activity prior to learning. We thus asked whether memory performance can be predicted by the extent to which spontaneous pre-encoding neural patterns resemble patterns elicited during encoding. Individuals studied and retrieved lists of words while undergoing fMRI-scanning. Multivoxel hippocampal patterns during resting periods prior to encoding resembled hippocampal patterns at encoding most strongly for items that were subsequently remembered. Furthermore, across subjects, the magnitude of similarity correlated with a behavioral measure of episodic recall. The results indicate that the neural context before learning is an important determinant of memory.
- episodic memory