A new imaging study by Prof. Simon Dennis and colleagues uncovers the representation of time and space in the human brain.
Memory stretches over a lifetime. In controlled laboratory settings, the hippocampus and other medial temporal lobe brain structures have been shown to represent space and time on the scale of meters and seconds. It remains unclear whether the hippocampus also represents space and time over the longer scales necessary for human episodic memory. We recorded neural activity while participants relived their own experiences, cued by photographs taken with a custom lifelogging device. We found that the left anterior hippocampus represents space and time for a month of remembered events occurring over distances of up to 30 km.
Although previous studies have identified similar drifts in representational similarity across space or time over the relatively brief time scales (seconds to minutes) that characterize individual episodic memories, our results provide compelling evidence that a similar pattern of spatiotemporal organization also exists for organizing distinct memories that are distant in space and time. These results further support the emerging view that the anterior, as opposed to posterior, hippocampus integrates distinct experiences, thereby providing a scaffold for encoding and retrieval of autobiographical memories on the scale of our lives.
Human hippocampus represents space and time during retrieval of real-world memories.
Dylan M. Nielson , Troy A. Smith , Vishnu Sreekumar , Simon Dennis, and Per B. Sederberg.
Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
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