Consolidation Promotes the Emergence of Representational Overlap in the Hippocampus and Medial Prefrontal Cortex

Neuron. 2017 Sep 27;96(1):228-241.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.09.005.


Structured knowledge is thought to form, in part, through the extraction and representation of regularities across overlapping experiences. However, little is known about how consolidation processes may transform novel episodic memories to reflect such regularities. In a multi-day fMRI study, participants encoded trial-unique associations that shared features with other trials. Multi-variate pattern analyses were used to measure neural similarity across overlapping and non-overlapping memories during immediate and 1-week retrieval of these associations. We found that neural patterns in the hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex represented the featural overlap across memories, but only after a week. Furthermore, after a week, the strength of a memory's unique episodic reinstatement during retrieval was inversely related to its representation of overlap, suggesting a trade-off between the integration of related memories and recovery of episodic details. These findings suggest that consolidation-related changes in neural representations support the gradual organization of discrete episodes into structured knowledge.

Keywords: hippocampus; human fMRI; medial prefrontal cortex; memory consolidation; pattern similarity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory Consolidation / physiology*
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mental Recall / physiology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult