Recent advances in experimental techniques have allowed the simultaneous recordings of
populations of hundreds of neurons, fostering a debate about the nature of the collective
structure of population neural activity. Much of this debate has focused on the
empirical findings of a phase transition in the parameter space of maximum entropy
models describing the measured neural probability distributions, interpreting this phase
transition to indicate a critical tuning of the neural code. Here, we instead focus on the
possibility that this is a first-order phase transition which provides evidence that the
real neural population is in a `structured', collective state. We show that this collective
state is robust to changes in stimulus ensemble and adaptive state. We find that the
pattern of pairwise correlations between neurons has a strength that is well within the
strongly correlated regime and does not require fine tuning, suggesting that this state is
generic for populations of 100+ neurons. We find a clear correspondence between the
emergence of a phase transition, and the emergence of attractor-like structure in the
inferred energy landscape. A collective state in the neural population, in which neural
activity patterns naturally form clusters, provides a consistent interpretation for our
It is well known that formation of new episodic memories depends on hippocampus, but in real-life settings (e.g., conversation), hippocampal amnesics can utilize information from several minutes earlier. What neural systems outside hippocampus might support this minutes-long retention? In this study, subjects viewed an audiovisual movie continuously for 25 min; another group viewed the movie in 2 parts separated by a 1-day delay. Understanding Part 2 depended on retrieving information from Part 1, and thus hippocampus was required in the day-delay condition. But is hippocampus equally recruited to access the same information from minutes earlier? We show that accessing memories from a few minutes prior elicited less interaction between hippocampus and default mode network (DMN) cortical regions than accessing day-old memories of identical events, suggesting that recent information was available with less reliance on hippocampal retrieval. Moreover, the 2 groups evinced
reliable but distinct DMN activity timecourses, reflecting differences in information carried in these regions when Part 1 was recent versus distant. The timecourses converged after 4 min, suggesting a time frame over which the continuous-viewing group may have relied less on hippocampal retrieval. We propose that cortical default mode regions can intrinsically retain real-life episodic information for several minutes.
Does the default mode network (DMN) reconfigure to encode information about the changing environment? This question has proven difficult, because patterns of functional connectivity reflect a mixture of stimulus-induced neural processes, intrinsic neural processes and non-neuronal noise. Here we introduce inter-subject functional correlation (ISFC), which isolates stimulus-dependent inter-regional correlations between brains exposed to the same stimulus. During fMRI, we had subjects listen to a real-life auditory narrative and to temporally scrambled versions of the narrative. We used ISFC to isolate correlation patterns within the DMN that were locked to the processing of each narrative segment and specific to its meaning within the narrative context. The momentary configurations of DMN ISFC were highly replicable across groups. Moreover, DMN coupling strength predicted memory of narrative segments. Thus, ISFC opens new avenues for linking brain network dynamics to stimulus features and behaviour.
What mechanisms support our ability to estimate durations on the order of minutes? Behavioral studies in humans have shown that changes in contextual features lead to overestimation of past durations. Based on evidence that the medial temporal lobes and prefrontal cortex represent contextual features, we related the degree of fMRI pattern change in these regions with people's subsequent duration estimates. After listening to a radio story in the scanner, participants were asked how much time had elapsed between pairs of clips from the story. Our ROI analysis found that the neural pattern distance between two clips at encoding was correlated with duration estimates in the right entorhinal cortex and right pars orbitalis. Moreover, a whole-brain searchlight analysis revealed a cluster spanning the right anterior temporal lobe. Our findings provide convergent support for the hypothesis that retrospective time judgments are driven by 'drift' in contextual representations supported by these regions.
Our daily lives revolve around sharing experiences and memories with others. When different people recount the same events, how similar are their underlying neural representations? In this study, participants viewed a fifty-minute audio-visual movie, then verbally described the events while undergoing functional MRI. These descriptions were completely unguided and highly detailed, lasting for up to forty minutes. As each person spoke, event-specific spatial patterns were reinstated (movie-vs.-recall correlation) in default network, medial temporal, and high-level visual areas; moreover, individual event patterns were highly discriminable and similar between people during recollection (recall-vs.-recall similarity), suggesting the existence of spatially organized memory representations. In posterior medial cortex, medial prefrontal cortex, and angular gyrus, activity patterns during recall were more similar between people than to patterns elicited by the movie, indicating systematic reshaping of percept into memory across individuals. These results reveal striking similarity in how neural activity underlying real-life memories is organized and transformed in the brains of different people as they speak spontaneously about past events.
Cara L. Buck; Jonathan D. Cohen; Field, Brent; Daniel Kahneman; Samuel M. McClure; Leigh E. Nystrom
Studies of subjective well-being have conventionally relied upon self-report, which directs subjects’ attention to their emotional experiences. This method presumes that attention itself does not influence emotional processes, which could bias sampling. We tested whether attention influences experienced utility (the moment-by-moment experience of pleasure) by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure the activity of brain systems thought to represent hedonic value while manipulating attentional load. Subjects received appetitive or aversive solutions orally while alternatively executing a low or high attentional load task. Brain regions associated with hedonic processing, including the ventral striatum, showed a response to both juice and quinine. This response decreased during the high-load task relative to the low-load task. Thus, attentional allocation may influence experienced utility by modulating (either directly or indirectly) the activity of brain mechanisms thought to represent hedonic value.