Medial temporal lobe reinstatement of content-specific details predicts source memory

Cortex. 2017 Jun;91:67-78. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2016.09.011. Epub 2016 Oct 12.


Leading theories propose that when remembering past events, medial temporal lobe (MTL) structures reinstate the neural patterns that were active when those events were initially encoded. Accurate reinstatement is hypothesized to support detailed recollection of memories, including their source. While several studies have linked cortical reinstatement to successful retrieval, indexing reinstatement within the MTL network and its relationship to memory performance has proved challenging. Here, we addressed this gap in knowledge by having participants perform an incidental encoding task, during which they visualized people, places, and objects in response to adjective cues. During a surprise memory test, participants saw studied and novel adjectives and indicated the imagery task they performed for each adjective. A multivariate pattern classifier was trained to discriminate the imagery tasks based on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) responses from hippocampus and MTL cortex at encoding. The classifier was then tested on MTL patterns during the source memory task. We found that MTL encoding patterns were reinstated during successful source retrieval. Moreover, when participants made source misattributions, errors were predicted by reinstatement of incorrect source content in MTL cortex. We further observed a gradient of content-specific reinstatement along the anterior-posterior axis of hippocampus and MTL cortex. Within anterior hippocampus, we found that reinstatement of person content was related to source memory accuracy, whereas reinstatement of place information across the entire hippocampal axis predicted correct source judgments. Content-specific reinstatement was also graded across MTL cortex, with PRc patterns evincing reactivation of people and more posterior regions, including PHc, showing evidence for reinstatement of places and objects. Collectively, these findings provide key evidence that source recollection relies on reinstatement of past experience within the MTL network.

Keywords: Episodic memory; Hippocampus; Parahippocampal cortex; Perirhinal cortex; Retrieval.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*
  • Young Adult