Evidence that neural information flow is reversed between object perception and object reconstruction from memory

Nat Commun. 2019 Jan 14;10(1):179. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-08080-2.


Remembering is a reconstructive process, yet little is known about how the reconstruction of a memory unfolds in time in the human brain. Here, we used reaction times and EEG time-series decoding to test the hypothesis that the information flow is reversed when an event is reconstructed from memory, compared to when the same event is initially being perceived. Across three experiments, we found highly consistent evidence supporting such a reversed stream. When seeing an object, low-level perceptual features were discriminated faster behaviourally, and could be decoded from brain activity earlier, than high-level conceptual features. This pattern reversed during associative memory recall, with reaction times and brain activity patterns now indicating that conceptual information was reconstructed more rapidly than perceptual details. Our findings support a neurobiologically plausible model of human memory, suggesting that memory retrieval is a hierarchical, multi-layered process that prioritises semantically meaningful information over perceptual details.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Reaction Time
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Young Adult