Stimulation of the Posterior Cingulate Cortex Impairs Episodic Memory Encoding.

J Neurosci 2019 09 29;39(36):7173-7182. Epub 2019 Jul 29.

Department of Neurological Surgery, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas 75390, and.

Neuroimaging experiments implicate the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) in episodic memory processing, making it a potential target for responsive neuromodulation strategies outside of the hippocampal network. However, causal evidence for the role that PCC plays in memory encoding is lacking. In human female and male participants ( = 17) undergoing seizure mapping, we investigated functional properties of the PCC using deep brain stimulation (DBS) and stereotactic electroencephalography. We used a verbal free recall paradigm in which the PCC was stimulated during presentation of half of the study lists, whereas no stimulation was applied during presentation of the remaining lists. We investigated whether stimulation affected memory and modulated hippocampal activity. Results revealed four main findings. First, stimulation during episodic memory encoding impaired subsequent free recall, predominantly for items presented early in the study lists. Second, PCC stimulation increased hippocampal gamma-band power. Third, stimulation-induced hippocampal gamma power predicted the magnitude of memory impairment. Fourth, functional connectivity between the hippocampus and PCC predicted the strength of the stimulation effect on memory. Our findings offer causal evidence implicating the PCC in episodic memory encoding. Importantly, the results indicate that stimulation targeted outside of the temporal lobe can modulate hippocampal activity and impact behavior. Furthermore, measures of connectivity between brain regions within a functional network can be informative in predicting behavioral effects of stimulation. Our findings have significant implications for developing therapies to treat memory disorders and cognitive impairment using DBS. Cognitive impairment and memory loss are critical public health challenges. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a promising tool for developing strategies to ameliorate memory disorders by targeting brain regions involved in mnemonic processing. Using DBS, our study sheds light on the lesser-known role of the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) in memory encoding. Stimulating the PCC during encoding impairs subsequent recall memory. The degree of impairment is predicted by stimulation-induced hippocampal gamma oscillations and functional connectivity between PCC and hippocampus. Our findings provide the first causal evidence implicating PCC in memory encoding and highlight the PCC as a favorable target for neuromodulation strategies using connectivity measures to predict stimulation effects. This has significant implications for developing therapies for memory diseases.

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