The Temporal Signature of Memories: Identification of a General Mechanism for Dynamic Memory Replay in Humans

PLoS Biol. 2016 Aug 5;14(8):e1002528. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1002528. eCollection 2016 Aug.


Reinstatement of dynamic memories requires the replay of neural patterns that unfold over time in a similar manner as during perception. However, little is known about the mechanisms that guide such a temporally structured replay in humans, because previous studies used either unsuitable methods or paradigms to address this question. Here, we overcome these limitations by developing a new analysis method to detect the replay of temporal patterns in a paradigm that requires participants to mentally replay short sound or video clips. We show that memory reinstatement is accompanied by a decrease of low-frequency (8 Hz) power, which carries a temporal phase signature of the replayed stimulus. These replay effects were evident in the visual as well as in the auditory domain and were localized to sensory-specific regions. These results suggest low-frequency phase to be a domain-general mechanism that orchestrates dynamic memory replay in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult

Associated data

  • Dryad/10.5061/dryad.ch110

Grant support

European Research Council Consolidator Grant awarded to SH (Grant Agreement 647954). Emmy Noether Programme Grant from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft awarded to SH (HA 5622/1-1). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.