January 24, 2021

Encoding-linked pupil response is modulated by expected and unexpected novelty: Implications for memory formation and neurotransmission

Whether a novel stimulus is expected or unexpected may have implications for the kind of ensuing encoding and the type of subsequent memory. Pupil response was used in the present study to explore the way expected and unexpected stimuli are encoded and whether encoding-linked pupil response is modulated by expectation. Participants first established a contingency relationship between a series of symbols and the type of stimulus (man-made or natural) that followed each one. At encoding, some of the target stimuli violated the previously established relationship (i.e., unexpected), while the majority conformed to this relationship (i.e., expected). Expectation at encoding had opposite effects on familiarity and recollection, the two types of memory that support recognition, and modulated differently the way pupil responses predicted subsequent memory. Encoding of unexpected novel stimuli was associated with increased pupil dilation as a predictor of subsequent memory type and strength. In contrast, encoding of expected novel stimuli was associated with decreased pupil response (constriction), which was predictive of subsequent memory type and strength. The findings support the close link between pupil response and memory formation, but critically indicate that this is modulated by the type of novelty as defined by expectation. These novel findings have important implications for the encoding mechanisms involved when different types of novelty are detected and is proposed to indicate the operation of different neurotransmitters in memory formation.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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