Multimodal feature integration in the angular gyrus during episodic and semantic retrieval

Bonnici, H.M.*, Richter, F.R.*, Yazar, Y., & Simons, J.S. (2016). Journal of Neuroscience, 36, 5462-5471.

(* joint first-authors)

Much evidence from distinct lines of investigation indicates the involvement of angular gyrus (AnG) in the retrieval of both episodic and semantic information, but the region's precise function and whether that function differs across episodic and semantic retrieval have yet to be determined. We used univariate and multivariate fMRI analysis methods to examine the role of AnG in multimodal feature integration during episodic and semantic retrieval. Human participants completed episodic and semantic memory tasks involving unimodal (auditory or visual) and multimodal (audio-visual) stimuli. Univariate analyses revealed the recruitment of functionally distinct AnG subregions during the retrieval of episodic and semantic information. Consistent with a role in multimodal feature integration during episodic retrieval, significantly greater AnG activity was observed during retrieval of integrated multimodal episodic memories compared with unimodal episodic memories. Multivariate classification analyses revealed that individual multimodal episodic memories could be differentiated in AnG, with classification accuracy tracking the vividness of participants' reported recollections, whereas distinct unimodal memories were represented in sensory association areas only. In contrast to episodic retrieval, AnG was engaged to a statistically equivalent degree during retrieval of unimodal and multimodal semantic memories, suggesting a distinct role for AnG during semantic retrieval. Modality-specific sensory association areas exhibited corresponding activity during both episodic and semantic retrieval, which mirrored the functional specialization of these regions during perception. The results offer new insights into the integrative processes subserved by AnG and its contribution to our subjective experience of remembering.