Episodic specificity induction impacts activity in a core brain network during construction of imagined future experiences

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Sep 20;113(38):10696-701. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1612278113. Epub 2016 Sep 6.


Recent behavioral work suggests that an episodic specificity induction-brief training in recollecting the details of a past experience-enhances performance on subsequent tasks that rely on episodic retrieval, including imagining future experiences, solving open-ended problems, and thinking creatively. Despite these far-reaching behavioral effects, nothing is known about the neural processes impacted by an episodic specificity induction. Related neuroimaging work has linked episodic retrieval with a core network of brain regions that supports imagining future experiences. We tested the hypothesis that key structures in this network are influenced by the specificity induction. Participants received the specificity induction or one of two control inductions and then generated future events and semantic object comparisons during fMRI scanning. After receiving the specificity induction compared with the control, participants exhibited significantly more activity in several core network regions during the construction of imagined events over object comparisons, including the left anterior hippocampus, right inferior parietal lobule, right posterior cingulate cortex, and right ventral precuneus. Induction-related differences in the episodic detail of imagined events significantly modulated induction-related differences in the construction of imagined events in the left anterior hippocampus and right inferior parietal lobule. Resting-state functional connectivity analyses with hippocampal and inferior parietal lobule seed regions and the rest of the brain also revealed significantly stronger core network coupling following the specificity induction compared with the control. These findings provide evidence that an episodic specificity induction selectively targets episodic processes that are commonly linked to key core network regions, including the hippocampus.

Keywords: core network; episodic specificity induction; fMRI; hippocampus; imagination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Gyrus Cinguli / diagnostic imaging
  • Gyrus Cinguli / physiology
  • Hippocampus / diagnostic imaging
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mental Recall / physiology
  • Parietal Lobe / diagnostic imaging
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Reaction Time
  • Thinking / physiology*