Constructing and Forgetting Temporal Context in the Human Cerebral Cortex

Neuron. 2020 May 20;106(4):675-686.e11. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2020.02.013. Epub 2020 Mar 11.


How does information from seconds earlier affect neocortical responses to new input? We found that when two groups of participants heard the same sentence in a narrative, preceded by different contexts, the neural responses of each group were initially different but gradually fell into alignment. We observed a hierarchical gradient: sensory cortices aligned most quickly, followed by mid-level regions, while some higher-order cortical regions took more than 10 seconds to align. What computations explain this hierarchical temporal organization? Linear integration models predict that regions that are slower to integrate new information should also be slower to forget old information. However, we found that higher-order regions could rapidly forget prior context. The data from the cortical hierarchy were instead captured by a model in which each region maintains a temporal context representation that is nonlinearly integrated with input at each moment, and this integration is gated by local prediction error.

Keywords: computational modeling; event boundary; fMRI; hierarchy; inter-subject correlation; prediction error; sequence processing; temporal context; temporal integration; timescales.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Echo-Planar Imaging
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Time
  • Young Adult