The theory of material specific lateralization of memory function posits that left and right MTL regions are asymmetrically involved in mnemonic processing of verbal and nonverbal material respectively. Lesion and functional imaging (fMRI) studies provide robust evidence for a left MTL asymmetry in the verbal memory domain. Evidence for a right MTL/nonverbal asymmetry is not as robust. A handful of fMRI studies have investigated this issue but have generally utilised nonverbal stimuli which are amenable to semantic elaboration. This fMRI study aimed to investigate the neural correlates of recognition memory processing in 20 healthy young adults (mean age=26 years) for verbal stimuli and nonverbal stimuli that were specifically designed to minimize verbalisation. Analyses revealed that the neural correlates of recognition memory processing for verbal and nonverbal stimuli were differentiable and asymmetrically recruited the left and right MTL respectively. The right perirhinal cortex and hippocampus were preferentially involved in successful recognition memory of items devoid of semantic information. In contrast, the left anterior hippocampus was preferentially involved in successful recognition memory of stimuli which contained semantic meaning. These results suggest that the left MTL is preferentially involved in mnemonic processing of verbal/semantic information. In contrast, the right MTL is preferentially involved in visual/non-semantic mnemonic processing. We propose that during development, the left MTL becomes specialised for verbal mnemonic processing due to its proximity with left lateralised cortical language processing areas while visual/non-semantic mnemonic processing gets 'crowded out' to become predominantly, but not completely, the domain of the right MTL. Hum Brain Mapp 37:933-941, 2016.
- medial temporal lobes
- material specific lateralization of function