We measured the regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) in 11 healthy volunteers with PET (positron emission tomography). The main purpose was to map the areas of the human brain that changed rCBF during (1) the storage, (2) retrieval from long-term memory, and (3) recognition of complex visual geometrical patterns. A control measurement was done with subjects at rest. Perception and learning of the patterns increased rCBF in V1 and in 17 cortical fields located in the cuneus, the lingual, fusiform, inferior temporal, occipital, and angular gyri, the precuneus, and the posterior part of superior parietal lobules. In addition, rCBF increased in the anterior hippocampus, anterior cingulate gyrus, and in several fields in the prefrontal cortex. Recognition of the patterns increased rCBF in 18 identically located fields overlapping those activated in learning. In addition, recognition provoked differentially localized increases in the pulvinar, posterior hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex. Learning and recognition of the patterns thus activated identical visual regions, but different extravisual regions. A surprising finding was that the hippocampus was also active in recognition. Recall of the patterns from long-term memory was associated with rCBF increases in yet difierent fields in the prefrontal cortex, and the anterior cingulate cortex. In addition, the posterior inferior temporal lobe, the precuneus, the angular gyrus, and the posterior superior parietal lobule were activated, but not any spot within the occipital cortex. Activation of V1 or immediate visual association areas is not a prerequisite for visual imagery for the patterns. The only four fields activated in storage recall and recognition were those in the posterior inferior temporal lobe, the precuneus, the angular gyrus, and the posterior superior parietal lobule. These might be the storage sites for such visual patterns. If this is true, storage, retrieval, and recognition of complex visual patterns are mediated by higher-level visual areas. Thus, visual learning and recognition of the same patterns make use of identical visual areas, whereas retrieval of this material from the storage sites activates only a subset of the visual areas. The extravisual networks mediating storage, retrieval, and recognition differ, indicating that the ways by which the brain accesses the storage sites are different.

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