Constructing, Perceiving, and Maintaining Scenes: Hippocampal Activity and Connectivity

Cereb Cortex. 2015 Oct;25(10):3836-55. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhu266. Epub 2014 Nov 18.


In recent years, evidence has accumulated to suggest the hippocampus plays a role beyond memory. A strong hippocampal response to scenes has been noted, and patients with bilateral hippocampal damage cannot vividly recall scenes from their past or construct scenes in their imagination. There is debate about whether the hippocampus is involved in the online processing of scenes independent of memory. Here, we investigated the hippocampal response to visually perceiving scenes, constructing scenes in the imagination, and maintaining scenes in working memory. We found extensive hippocampal activation for perceiving scenes, and a circumscribed area of anterior medial hippocampus common to perception and construction. There was significantly less hippocampal activity for maintaining scenes in working memory. We also explored the functional connectivity of the anterior medial hippocampus and found significantly stronger connectivity with a distributed set of brain areas during scene construction compared with scene perception. These results increase our knowledge of the hippocampus by identifying a subregion commonly engaged by scenes, whether perceived or constructed, by separating scene construction from working memory, and by revealing the functional network underlying scene construction, offering new insights into why patients with hippocampal lesions cannot construct scenes.

Keywords: episodic memory; fMRI; hippocampus; perception; scene construction; scenes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / physiology
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / anatomy & histology*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Imagination / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult