Time and space represent two key aspects of episodic memories, forming the spatiotemporal context of events in a sequence. Little is known, however, about how temporal information, such as the duration and the order of particular events, are encoded into memory, and if it matters whether the memory representation is based on recollection or familiarity. To investigate this issue, we used a real world virtual reality navigation paradigm where periods of navigation were interspersed with pauses of different durations. Crucially, participants were able to reliably distinguish the durations of events that were subjectively "reexperienced" (i.e., recollected), but not of those that were familiar. This effect was not found in temporal order (ordinal) judgments. We also show that the active experience of the passage of time (holding down a key while waiting) moderately enhanced duration memory accuracy. Memory for event duration, therefore, appears to rely on the hippocampally supported ability to recollect or reexperience an event enabling the reinstatement of both its duration and its spatial context, to distinguish it from other events in a sequence. In contrast, ordinal memory appears to rely on familiarity and recollection to a similar extent.
© 2017 Brunec et al.; Published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press.