Expectation-driven novelty effects in episodic memory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Novel and unexpected stimuli are often prioritised in memory, given their inherent salience. Nevertheless, not all forms of novelty show such an enhancement effect. Here, we discuss the role expectation plays in modulating the way novelty affects memory processes, circuits, and subsequent performance. We first review independent effects of expectation on memory, and then consider how different types of novelty are characterised by expectation. We argue that different types of novelty defined by expectation implicate differential neurotransmission in memory formation brain regions and may also result in the creation of different types of memory. Contextual novelty, which is unexpected by definition, is often associated with better recollection, supported by dopaminergic-hippocampal interactions. On the other hand, expected stimulus novelty is supported by engagement of medial temporal cortices, as well as the hippocampus, through cholinergic modulation. Furthermore, when expected stimulus novelty results in enhanced memory, it is predominantly driven by familiarity. The literature reviewed here highlights the complexity of novelty-sensitive memory systems, the distinction between types of novelty, and how they are differentially affected by expectancy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107466
JournalNeurobiology of Learning and Memory
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


  • Acetylcholine/metabolism
  • Animals
  • Dopamine/metabolism
  • Exploratory Behavior
  • Hippocampus/metabolism
  • Humans
  • Memory, Episodic
  • Motivation
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Temporal Lobe/metabolism

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing


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