The influence of correlations on the momentum distribution of nucleons in nuclei is evaluated starting from a realistic nucleon-nucleon interaction. The calculations are performed directly for the finite nucleus 16O making use of the Green function approach. The emphasis is focused on the correlations induced by the excitation modes at low energies described within a model space of shell-model configurations including states up to the sdg shell. Our analysis demonstrates that these long-range correlations do not produce any significant enhancement of the momentum distribution at high missing momenta and low missing energies. This is in agreement with high-resolution ( e, e' p) experiments for this nucleus. We also try to simulate the corresponding effects in large nuclei by quenching the energy spacing between single-particle orbits. This yields a sizable enhancement of the spectral function at large momenta and small energy. Such behavior could explain the deviation of the momentum distribution from the mean-field prediction, which has been observed in ( e, e', p) experiments on heavy nuclei like 208Pb.