Imaging distributed and massed repetitions of natural scenes: Spontaneous retrieval and maintenance

Margaret M. Bradley, Vincent D. Costa, Vera Ferrari, Maurizio Codispoti, Jeffrey R. Fitzsimmons, Peter J. Lang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Repetitions that are distributed (spaced) across time prompt enhancement of a memory-related event-related potential, compared to when repetitions are massed (contiguous). Here, we used fMRI to investigate neural enhancement and suppression effects during free viewing of natural scenes that were either novel or repeated four times with massed or distributed repetitions. Distributed repetition was uniquely associated with a repetition enhancement effect in a bilateral posterior parietal cluster that included the precuneus and posterior cingulate and which has previously been implicated in episodic memory retrieval. Unique to massed repetition, conversely, was enhancement in a right dorsolateral prefrontal cluster that has been implicated in short-term maintenance. Repetition suppression effects for both types of spacing were widespread in regions activated during novel picture processing. Taken together, the data are consistent with a hypothesis that distributed repetition prompts spontaneous retrieval of prior occurrences, whereas massed repetition prompts short-term maintenance of the episodic representation, due to contiguous presentation. These processing differences may mediate the classic spacing effect in learning and memory. Hum Brain Mapp 36:1381-1392, 2015.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1381-1392
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Posterior parietal
  • Repetition
  • Retrieval

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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