Chang, Claire H. C.; Lazaridi, Christina; Yeshurun, Yaara; Norman, Kenneth A.; Hasson, Uri
This study examined how the brain dynamically updates event representations by integrating new information over multiple minutes while segregating irrelevant input. A professional writer custom-designed a narrative with two independent storylines, interleaving across minute-long segments (ABAB). In the last (C) part, characters from the two storylines meet and their shared history is revealed. Part C is designed to induce the spontaneous recall of past events, upon the recurrence of narrative motifs from A/B, and to shed new light on them. Our fMRI results showed storyline-specific neural patterns, which were reinstated (i.e. became more active) during storyline transitions. This effect increased along the processing timescale hierarchy, peaking in the default mode network. Similarly, the neural reinstatement of motifs was found during part C. Furthermore, participants showing stronger motif reinstatement performed better in integrating A/B and C events, demonstrating the role of memory reactivation in information integration over intervening irrelevant events.
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.