Hotspot of human verbal memory encoding in the left anterior prefrontal cortex

Çağdaş Topçu, Victoria S. Marks, Krishnakant V. Saboo, Michał Lech, Petr Nejedly, Vaclav Kremen, Gregory A. Worrell, Michal T. Kucewicz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Treating memory and cognitive deficits requires knowledge about anatomical sites and neural activities to be targeted with particular therapies. Emerging technologies for local brain stimulation offer attractive therapeutic options but need to be applied to target specific neural activities, at distinct times, and in specific brain regions that are critical for memory formation. Methods: The areas that are critical for successful encoding of verbal memory as well as the underlying neural activities were determined directly in the human brain with intracranial electrophysiological recordings in epilepsy patients. We recorded a broad range of spectral activities across the cortex of 135 patients as they memorised word lists for subsequent free recall. Findings: The greatest differences in the spectral power between encoding subsequently recalled and forgotten words were found in low theta frequency (3–5 Hz) activities of the left anterior prefrontal cortex. This subsequent memory effect was proportionally greater in the lower frequency bands and in the more anterior cortical regions. We found the peak of this memory signal in a distinct part of the prefrontal cortex at the junction between the Broca's area and the frontal pole. The memory effect in this confined area was significantly higher (Tukey–Kramer test, p<0.05) than in other anatomically distinct areas. Interpretation: Our results suggest a focal hotspot of human verbal memory encoding located in the higher-order processing region of the prefrontal cortex, which presents a prospective target for modulating cognitive functions in the human patients. The memory effect provides an electrophysiological biomarker of low frequency neural activities, at distinct times of memory encoding, and in one hotspot location in the human brain. Funding: Open-access datasets were originally collected as part of a BRAIN Initiative project called Restoring Active Memory (RAM) funded by the Defence Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA). CT, ML, MTK and this research were supported from the First Team grant of the Foundation for Polish Science co-financed by the European Union under the European Regional Development Fund.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104135
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • Anterior prefrontal cortex
  • Frontal pole
  • Human verbal memory
  • Intracranial recordings
  • Memory encoding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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