The episodic memory system can differentiate similar events based on the temporal information associated with the events. Temporal context, which is at least partially determined by the events that precede or follow the critical event, may be a cue to differentiate events. The purpose of the present study is to investigate whether the hippocampal dentate gyrus (DG)/CA3 and CA1 subfields are sensitive to changes in temporal context and, if so, whether the subregions show a linear or threshold-like response to similar temporal contexts. Participants incidentally encoded a series of object picture triplets and 20 of them were included in final analyses. The third picture in each triplet was operationally defined as the target and the first two pictures served as temporal context for the target picture. Each target picture was presented twice with temporal context manipulated to be either repeated, high similarity, low similarity, or new on the second presentation. We extracted beta parameters for the repeated target as a function of the type of temporal context. We expected to see repetition suppression, a reduction in the beta values, in response to repetition of the target. If temporal context information is included in the representation of the target within a given region, this repetition suppression should be greater for target images that were preceded by their original context than for target images preceded by a new context. Neuroimaging results showed that CA1, but not DG/CA3, modifies the target's representation based on its temporal context. Right CA1 did not distinguish high similarity temporal context from repeated context but did distinguish low similarity temporal context from repeated context. These results indicate that CA1 is sensitive to temporal context and suggest that it does not differentiate between a substantially similar temporal context and an identical temporal context. In contrast, DG/CA3 does not appear to process temporal context as defined in the current experiment.
Keywords: CA1; Dentate gyrus/CA3; Temporal context.
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