Memory, Imagination, and Predicting the Future: A Common Brain Mechanism?

Neuroscientist. 2014 Jun;20(3):220-34. doi: 10.1177/1073858413495091. Epub 2013 Jul 11.


On the face of it, memory, imagination, and prediction seem to be distinct cognitive functions. However, metacognitive, cognitive, neuropsychological, and neuroimaging evidence is emerging that they are not, suggesting intimate links in their underlying processes. Here, we explore these empirical findings and the evolving theoretical frameworks that seek to explain how a common neural system supports our recollection of times past, imagination, and our attempts to predict the future.

Keywords: amnesia; episodic memory; fMRI; future; hippocampus; imagination; navigation; neuropsychology; prediction; prospection; scene construction; scenes; simulation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Imagination / physiology*
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Thinking / physiology*