Eye movements support behavioral pattern completion

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Mar 17;117(11):6246-6254. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1917586117. Epub 2020 Mar 2.


The ability to recall a detailed event from a simple reminder is supported by pattern completion, a cognitive operation performed by the hippocampus wherein existing mnemonic representations are retrieved from incomplete input. In behavioral studies, pattern completion is often inferred through the false endorsement of lure (i.e., similar) items as old. However, evidence that such a response is due to the specific retrieval of a similar, previously encoded item is severely lacking. We used eye movement (EM) monitoring during a partial-cue recognition memory task to index reinstatement of lure images behaviorally via the recapitulation of encoding-related EMs or gaze reinstatement. Participants reinstated encoding-related EMs following degraded retrieval cues and this reinstatement was negatively correlated with accuracy for lure images, suggesting that retrieval of existing representations (i.e., pattern completion) underlies lure false alarms. Our findings provide evidence linking gaze reinstatement and pattern completion and advance a functional role for EMs in memory retrieval.

Keywords: eye movements; memory; pattern completion.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cues
  • Eye Movement Measurements
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Young Adult