Changing patterns of brain activation during maze learning

John Darrell Van Horn, James M. Gold, Giuseppe Esposito, Jill L. Ostrem, Venkata Mattay, Daniel R. Weinberger, Karen Faith Berman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Recent research has found that patterns of brain activation involving the frontal cortex during novel task performance change dramatically following practice and repeat performance. Evidence for differential left vs. right frontal lobe activation, respectively, during episodic memory encoding and retrieval has also been reported. To examine these potentially related issues regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) was measured in 15 normal volunteers using positron emission tomography (PET) during the naive and practiced performance of a maze task paradigm. SPM analysis indicated a largely right-sided, frontal lobe activation during naive performance. Following training and practice, performance of the same maze task elicited a more posterior pattern of rCBF activation involving posterior cingulate and precuneus. The change in the pattern of rCBF activation between novel and practiced task conditions agrees with results found in previous studies using repeat task methodology, and indicates that the neural circuitry required for encoding novel task information differs from that required when the same task has become familiar and information is being recalled. The right-sided preponderance of activation during naive performance may relate to task novelty and the spatially-based nature of the stimuli, whereas posterior areas activated during repeat performance are those previously found to be associated with visuospatial memory recall. Activation of these areas, however, does not agree with previously reported findings of left-sided activation during verbal episodic memory encoding and right-sided activation during retrieval, suggesting different neural substrates for verbal and visuospatial processing within memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-38
Number of pages10
JournalBrain research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - May 18 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Episodic memory
  • Frontal lobe
  • Maze learning
  • Positron emission tomography
  • Procedural memory
  • Regional cerebral blood flow
  • Visuospatial memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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