Constructing, Perceiving, and Maintaining Scenes: Hippocampal Activity and Connectivity.
ABSTRACT: In recent years, evidence has accumulated to suggest the hippocampus plays a role beyond memory. A strong hippocampal response to scenes has been noted, and patients with bilateral hippocampal damage cannot vividly recall scenes from their past or construct scenes in their imagination. There is debate about whether the hippocampus is involved in the online processing of scenes independent of memory. Here, we investigated the hippocampal response to visually perceiving scenes, constructing scenes in the imagination, and maintaining scenes in working memory. We found extensive hippocampal activation for perceiving scenes, and a circumscribed area of anterior medial hippocampus common to perception and construction. There was significantly less hippocampal activity for maintaining scenes in working memory. We also explored the functional connectivity of the anterior medial hippocampus and found significantly stronger connectivity with a distributed set of brain areas during scene construction compared with scene perception. These results increase our knowledge of the hippocampus by identifying a subregion commonly engaged by scenes, whether perceived or constructed, by separating scene construction from working memory, and by revealing the functional network underlying scene construction, offering new insights into why patients with hippocampal lesions cannot construct scenes.
Project description:Previous functional MRI (fMRI) studies have associated anterior hippocampus with imagining and recalling scenes, imagining the future, recalling autobiographical memories and visual scene perception. We have observed that this typically involves the medial rather than the lateral portion of the anterior hippocampus. Here, we investigated which specific structures of the hippocampus underpin this observation. We had participants imagine novel scenes during fMRI scanning, as well as recall previously learned scenes from two different time periods (one week and 30 min prior to scanning), with analogous single object conditions as baselines. Using an extended segmentation protocol focussing on anterior hippocampus, we first investigated which substructures of the hippocampus respond to scenes, and found both imagination and recall of scenes to be associated with activity in presubiculum/parasubiculum, a region associated with spatial representation in rodents. Next, we compared imagining novel scenes to recall from one week or 30 min before scanning. We expected a strong response to imagining novel scenes and 1-week recall, as both involve constructing scene representations from elements stored across cortex. By contrast, we expected a weaker response to 30-min recall, as representations of these scenes had already been constructed but not yet consolidated. Both imagination and 1-week recall of scenes engaged anterior hippocampal structures (anterior subiculum and uncus respectively), indicating possible roles in scene construction. By contrast, 30-min recall of scenes elicited significantly less activation of anterior hippocampus but did engage posterior CA3. Together, these results elucidate the functions of different parts of the anterior hippocampus, a key brain area about which little is definitely known.
Project description:BACKGROUND:When we view a scene, we construct an internal representation of the scene that extends beyond its given borders. This cognitive phenomenon is revealed by a subsequent memory error when we confidently misremember the extended scene instead of the original. This effect is known as "boundary extension" and is apparent in adults, children, and babies. RESULTS:Here we show that seven patients with selective bilateral hippocampal damage and amnesia, who cannot imagine spatially coherent scenes, displayed attenuated levels of boundary extension on three separate measures. Paradoxically, this reduced boundary extension resulted in better memory for the stimuli compared with matched control participants, because the patients' recall was less encumbered by the boundary extension error. A further test revealed that although patients could generate appropriate semantic, conceptual, and contextual information about what might be beyond the view in a scene, their representation of the specifically spatial aspect of extended scenes was markedly impoverished. CONCLUSIONS:The patients' superior memory performance betrayed a fundamental deficit in scene processing. Our findings indicate that the hippocampus supports the internal representation of scenes and extended scenes when they are not physically in view, and this may involve providing a spatial framework in scenes. We suggest that interference with the ability to internally represent space may prevent the construction of spatially coherent scenes, with possible consequences for navigation, recollection of the past, and imagination of the future, which depend on this function.
Project description:Recalling the past, thinking about the future, and navigating in the world are linked with a brain structure called the hippocampus. Precisely, how the hippocampus enables these critical cognitive functions is still debated. The strategies people use to perform tasks associated with these functions have been under-studied, and yet, such information could augment our understanding of the associated cognitive processes and neural substrates. Here, we devised and deployed an in-depth protocol to examine the explicit strategies used by 217 participants to perform four naturalistic tasks widely acknowledged to be hippocampal-dependent, namely, those assessing scene imagination, autobiographical memory recall, future thinking, and spatial navigation. In addition, we also investigated strategy use for three laboratory-based memory tasks, one of which is held to be hippocampal-dependent - concrete verbal paired associates (VPA) - and two tasks, which are likely hippocampal-independent - abstract VPA and the dead or alive semantic memory test. We found that scene visual imagery was the dominant strategy not only when mentally imagining scenes, but also during autobiographical memory recall, when thinking about the future and during navigation. Moreover, scene visual imagery strategies were used most frequently during the concrete VPA task, whereas verbal strategies were most prevalent for the abstract VPA task and the dead or alive semantic memory task. The ubiquity of specifically scene visual imagery use across a range of tasks may attest to its, perhaps underappreciated, importance in facilitating cognition, while also aligning with perspectives that emphasize a key role for the hippocampus in constructing scene imagery.
Project description:The ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) and hippocampus have been implicated in the mental construction of scenes and events. However, little is known about their specific contributions to these cognitive functions. Boundary extension (BE) is a robust indicator of fast, automatic, and implicit scene construction. BE occurs when individuals who are viewing scenes automatically imagine what might be beyond the view, and consequently later misremember having seen a greater expanse of the scene. Patients with hippocampal damage show attenuated BE because of their scene construction impairment. In the current study, we administered BE tasks to patients with vmPFC damage, brain-damaged control patients, and healthy control participants. We also contrasted the performance of these patients to the previously-published data from patients with hippocampal lesions (Mullally, Intraub, & Maguire, 2012). We found that vmPFC-damaged patients showed reduced BE compared to brain-damaged and healthy controls. Indeed, BE attenuation was similar following vmPFC or hippocampal damage. Notably, however, whereas hippocampal damage seems to particularly impair the spatial coherence of scenes, vmPFC damage leads to a difficulty constructing scenes in a broader sense, with the prediction of what should be in a scene, and the monitoring or integration of the scene elements being particularly compromised. We conclude that vmPFC and hippocampus play important and complementary roles in scene construction.
Project description:We evaluated two different perspectives about the function of the human hippocampus--one that emphasizes the importance of memory and another that emphasizes the importance of spatial processing and scene construction. We gave tests of boundary extension, scene construction, and memory to patients with lesions limited to the hippocampus or large lesions of the medial temporal lobe. The patients were intact on all of the spatial tasks and impaired on all of the memory tasks. We discuss earlier studies that associated performance on these spatial tasks to hippocampal function. Our results demonstrate the importance of medial temporal lobe structures for memory and raise doubts about the idea that these structures have a prominent role in spatial cognition.
Project description:Reliving past events and imagining potential future events engages a well-established "core" network of brain areas. How the brain constructs, or reconstructs, these experiences or scenes has been debated extensively in the literature, but remains poorly understood. Here we designed a novel task to investigate this (re)constructive process by directly exploring how naturalistic scenes are built up from their individual elements. We "slowed-down" the construction process through the use of auditorily presented phrases describing single scene elements in a serial manner. Participants were required to integrate these elements (ranging from three to six in number) together in their imagination to form a naturalistic scene. We identified three distinct sub-networks of brain areas, each with different fMRI BOLD response profiles, favouring specific points in the scene construction process. Areas including the hippocampus and retrosplenial cortex had a biphasic profile, activating when a single scene element was imagined and when 3 elements were combined together; regions including the intra-parietal sulcus and angular gyrus steadily increased activity from 1 to 3 elements; while activity in areas such as lateral prefrontal cortex was observed from the second element onwards. Activity in these sub-networks did not increase further when integrating more than three elements. Participants confirmed that three elements were sufficient to construct a coherent and vivid scene, and once this was achieved, the addition of further elements only involved maintenance or small changes to that established scene. This task offers a potentially useful tool for breaking down scene construction, a process that may be key to a range of cognitive functions such as episodic memory, future thinking and navigation.
Project description:We investigated the relationship between experience-dependent eye movements, hippocampus-dependent memory, and aware memory. We measured eye movements in young adults, older adults, and memory-impaired patients with damage to the medial temporal lobe as they viewed 120 novel scenes and 120 previously viewed scenes. Participants indicated if each scene was old or new and also gave a confidence rating for the memory judgment. Young adults and older adults explored old scenes less than they explored new scenes, but the patients did not. For the young and older adults, this effect was observed only when participants were aware of the scene's familiar or novel status. In a second experiment, young adults viewed scenes that were either new, had been viewed previously, or had been viewed previously but had been changed (i.e., an object within the scene was either added or removed). The only instructions were to pay attention to the scenes and view each scene as it appeared, and there was no expectation that memory would be tested. Directly after the first altered scene was presented, participants were asked to classify the scene as new, old, or old but changed. Participants who were aware of the manipulation preferentially viewed the changed region, but participants who were unaware did not. These findings suggest that experience-dependent eye movements reflect hippocampus-dependent (and aware) memory, even when participants have no expectation that memory is being tested; and they are consistent with the view that awareness of what is learned is a fundamental characteristic of hippocampus-dependent memory.
Project description:Traditionally, it has been proposed that the hippocampus and adjacent medial temporal lobe cortical structures are selectively critical for long-term declarative memory, which entails memory for inter-item and item-context relationships. Whether the hippocampus might also contribute to short-term retention of relational memory representations has remained controversial. In two experiments, we revisit this question by testing memory for relationships among items embedded in scenes using a standard working memory trial structure in which a sample stimulus is followed by a brief delay and the corresponding test stimulus. In each experimental block, eight trials using different exemplars of the same scene were presented. The exemplars contained the same items but with different spatial relationships among them. By repeating the pictures across trials, any potential contributions of item or scene memory to performance were minimized, and relational memory could be assessed more directly than has been done previously. When test displays were presented, participants indicated whether any of the item-location relationships had changed. Then, regardless of their responses (and whether any item did change its location), participants indicated on a forced-choice test, which item might have moved, guessing if necessary. Amnesic patients were impaired on the change detection test, and were frequently unable to specify the change after having reported correctly that a change had taken place. Comparison participants, by contrast, frequently identified the change even when they failed to report the mismatch, an outcome that speaks to the sensitivity of the change specification measure. These results confirm past reports of hippocampal contributions to short-term retention of relational memory representations, and suggest that the role of the hippocampus in memory has more to do with relational memory requirements than the length of a retention interval.
Project description:Optically-pumped (OP) magnetometers allow magnetoencephalography (MEG) to be performed while a participant's head is unconstrained. To fully leverage this new technology, and in particular its capacity for mobility, the activity of deep brain structures which facilitate explorative behaviours such as navigation, must be detectable using OP-MEG. One such crucial brain region is the hippocampus. Here we had three healthy adult participants perform a hippocampal-dependent task - the imagination of novel scene imagery - while being scanned using OP-MEG. A conjunction analysis across these three participants revealed a significant change in theta power in the medial temporal lobe. The peak of this activated cluster was located in the anterior hippocampus. We repeated the experiment with the same participants in a conventional SQUID-MEG scanner and found similar engagement of the medial temporal lobe, also with a peak in the anterior hippocampus. These OP-MEG findings indicate exciting new opportunities for investigating the neural correlates of a range of crucial cognitive functions in naturalistic contexts including spatial navigation, episodic memory and social interactions.
Project description:Previous research has shown that the medial temporal lobes (MTL) are more strongly engaged when individuals think about the future than about the present, leading to the suggestion that future projection drives MTL engagement. However, future thinking tasks often involve scene processing, leaving open the alternative possibility that scene-construction demands, rather than future projection, are responsible for the MTL differences observed in prior work. This study explores this alternative account. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we directly contrasted MTL activity in 1) high scene-construction and low scene-construction imagination conditions matched in future thinking demands and 2) future-oriented and present-oriented imagination conditions matched in scene-construction demands. Consistent with the alternative account, the MTL was more active for the high versus low scene-construction condition. By contrast, MTL differences were not observed when comparing the future versus present conditions. Moreover, the magnitude of MTL activation was associated with the extent to which participants imagined a scene but was not associated with the extent to which participants thought about the future. These findings help disambiguate which component processes of imagination specifically involve the MTL.