"What-Where-Which" Episodic Retrieval Requires Conscious Recollection and Is Promoted by Semantic Knowledge.
ABSTRACT: Episodic memory is defined as the conscious retrieval of specific past events. Whether accurate episodic retrieval requires a recollective experience or if a feeling of knowing is sufficient remains unresolved. We recently devised an ecological approach to investigate the controlled cued-retrieval of episodes composed of unnamable odors (What) located spatially (Where) within a visual context (Which context). By combining the Remember/Know procedure with our laboratory-ecological approach in an original way, the present study demonstrated that the accurate odor-evoked retrieval of complex and multimodal episodes overwhelmingly required conscious recollection. A feeling of knowing, even when associated with a high level of confidence, was not sufficient to generate accurate episodic retrieval. Interestingly, we demonstrated that the recollection of accurate episodic memories was promoted by odor retrieval-cue familiarity and describability. In conclusion, our study suggested that semantic knowledge about retrieval-cues increased the recollection which is the state of awareness required for the accurate retrieval of complex episodic memories.
Project description:Alcohol and other pharmacologically similar sedatives (i.e., GABAA positive allosteric modulators or PAMs) impair the encoding of new episodic memories but retroactively facilitate the consolidation of recently encoded memories. These effects are consistent for recollection (i.e., the retrieval of details) but some mixed results have been reported for familiarity (i.e., a feeling of knowing a stimulus was presented). Here, with dual-process models, we reanalyzed prior work testing the effects of GABAA PAMs at encoding or consolidation. Contrary to previous conclusions, we show that GABAA PAMs at encoding consistently impair both recollection and familiarity when an independence correction is applied to familiarity-based responses. These findings were further confirmed and extended in a dual-process signal detection analysis of a recent study on the effects of alcohol during encoding or consolidation: Alcohol at encoding impaired both recollection and familiarity, whereas alcohol at consolidation enhanced both recollection and familiarity. These findings speak to the ability of alcohol and other GABAA PAMs to induce 'blackouts,' highlighting the importance of dual-process approaches when analyzing drug manipulations at different phases of episodic memory.
Project description:Specific odors can induce memories of the past, especially those associated with autobiographical and episodic memory. Odors associated with autobiographical memories have been found to elicit stronger activation in the orbitofrontal cortex, hippocampus, and parahippocampus compared with odors not linked to personal memories. Here, we examined whether continuous odor stimuli associated with autobiographical memories could activate the above olfactory areas in older adults and speculated regarding whether this odor stimulation could have a protective effect against age-related cognitive decline. Specifically, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the relationship between blood oxygen levels in olfactory regions and odor-induced subjective memory retrieval and emotions associated with autobiographical memory in older adults. In our group of healthy older adults, the tested odors induced autobiographical memories that were accompanied by increasing levels of retrieval and the feeling of being "brought back in time." The strength of the subjective feelings, including vividness of the memory and degree of comfort, impacted activation of the left fusiform gyrus and left posterior orbitofrontal cortex. Further, our path model suggested that the strength of memory retrieval and of the emotions induced by odor-evoked autobiographical memories directly influenced neural changes in the left fusiform gyrus, and impacted left posterior orbitofrontal cortex activation through the left fusiform response.
Project description:Memories are consolidated during sleep by two apparently antagonistic processes: (1) reinforcement of memory-specific cortical interactions and (2) homeostatic reduction in synaptic efficiency. Using fMRI, we assessed whether episodic memories are processed during sleep by either or both mechanisms, by comparing recollection before and after sleep. We probed whether LTP influences these processes by contrasting two groups of individuals prospectively recruited based on BDNF rs6265 (Val66Met) polymorphism. Between immediate retrieval and delayed testing scheduled after sleep, responses to recollection increased significantly more in Val/Val individuals than in Met carriers in parietal and occipital areas not previously engaged in retrieval, consistent with "systems-level consolidation." Responses also increased differentially between allelic groups in regions already activated before sleep but only in proportion to slow oscillation power, in keeping with "synaptic downscaling." Episodic memories seem processed at both synaptic and systemic levels during sleep by mechanisms involving LTP.
Project description:Autobiographical memory in amnestic Mild Cognitive Impairment (aMCI) is characterized by impaired retrieval of episodic memories, but relatively preserved personal semantic knowledge. This study aimed to identify (via FDG-PET) the neural substrates of impaired episodic specificity of autobiographical memories in 35 aMCI patients compared with 24 healthy elderly controls. Significant correlations between regional cerebral activity and the proportion of episodic details in autobiographical memories from two life periods were found in specific regions of an autobiographical brain network. In aMCI patients, more than in controls, specifically episodic memories from early adulthood were associated with metabolic activity in the cuneus and in parietal regions. We hypothesized that variable retrieval of episodic autobiographical memories in our aMCI patients would be related to their variable capacity to reactivate specific sensory-perceptual and contextual details of early adulthood events linked to reduced (occipito-parietal) visual imagery and less efficient (parietal) attentional processes. For recent memories (last year), a correlation emerged between the proportion of episodic details and activity in lateral temporal regions and the temporo-parietal junction. Accordingly, variable episodic memory for recent events may be related to the efficiency of controlled search through general events likely to provide cues for the retrieval of episodic details and to the ability to establish a self perspective favouring recollection.
Project description:Recent evidence indicates that the processing of a stimulus can be influenced by preceding patterns of brain activity. Here we examine whether prestimulus oscillatory brain activity can influence the ability to retrieve episodic memories. Neural activity in the theta-frequency band (4-8 Hz) was enhanced before presentation of test items which elicited accurate recollection of contextual details of the prior study episode ("source retrieval"), relative to trials for which item recognition was successful but source retrieval failed. Poststimulus theta activity was also related to source retrieval, and the magnitude of poststimulus theta was predicted by the magnitude of the prestimulus theta effects. The results suggest that ongoing neural processes occurring before stimulus onset might play a critical role in readying the brain for successful memory retrieval.
Project description:Our episodic memory stores what happened when and where in life. Episodic memory requires the rapid formation and flexible retrieval of where things are located in space. Consciousness of the encoding scene is considered crucial for episodic memory formation. Here, we question the necessity of consciousness and hypothesize that humans can form unconscious episodic memories. Participants were presented with subliminal scenes, that is, scenes invisible to the conscious mind. The scenes displayed objects at certain locations for participants to form unconscious object-in-space memories. Later, the same scenes were presented supraliminally, that is, visibly, for retrieval testing. Scenes were presented absent the objects and rotated by 90°-270° in perspective to assess the representational flexibility of unconsciously formed memories. During the test phase, participants performed a forced-choice task that required them to place an object in one of two highlighted scene locations and their eye movements were recorded. Evaluation of the eye tracking data revealed that participants remembered object locations unconsciously, irrespective of changes in viewing perspective. This effect of gaze was related to correct placements of objects in scenes, and an intuitive decision style was necessary for unconscious memories to influence intentional behavior to a significant degree. We conclude that conscious perception is not mandatory for spatial episodic memory formation.
Project description:Everyday functioning relies on episodic memory, the conscious retrieval of past experiences, but this crucial cognitive ability declines severely with aging and disease. Vulnerability to memory decline varies across individuals however, producing differences in the time course and severity of memory problems that complicate attempts at diagnosis and treatment. Here we identify a key source of variability, by examining gene dependent changes in the neural basis of episodic remembering in healthy adults, targeting seven polymorphisms previously linked to memory. Scalp recorded Event-Related Potentials (ERPs) were measured while participants remembered words, using an item recognition task that requires discrimination between studied and unstudied stimuli. Significant differences were found as a consequence of a Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) in just one of the tested genes, PRKCA (rs8074995). Participants with the common G/G variant exhibited left parietal old/new effects, which are typically seen in word recognition studies, reflecting recollection-based remembering. During the same stage of memory retrieval participants carrying a rarer A variant exhibited an atypical pattern of brain activity, a topographically dissociable frontally-distributed old/new effect, even though behavioural performance did not differ between groups. Results replicated in a second independent sample of participants. These findings demonstrate that the PRKCA genotype is important in determining how episodic memories are retrieved, opening a new route towards understanding individual differences in memory.
Project description:Recognition memory enables us to discriminate whether an event has occurred in the past, and is widely interpreted to reflect the conscious retrieval of episodic traces or familiarity. Non-conscious mnemonic influences, such as repetition priming, are thought to have a negligible effect on standard tests of recognition memory. A major difficulty with this conclusion is that it is exclusively based on the results from experimental protocols that use stimulus materials available to conscious perception. In eight experiments (N = 144), we tested the necessity of mechanisms related to conscious perception for accurate recognition memory by manipulating observers' awareness of either the encoded event and/or the retrieval cues. Remarkably, observers made accurate objective and subjective recognition memory-guided judgments without visual awareness of the encoded events, retrieval cues or, most strikingly, both. These results demonstrate that non-conscious processes can drive accurate recognition memory, and are a significant challenge to neurobiological accounts centered on the conscious retrieval of episodic traces or familiarity.
Project description:Reminders of the past can trigger the recollection of events that one would rather forget. Here, using fMRI, we demonstrate two distinct neural mechanisms that foster the intentional forgetting of such unwanted memories. Both mechanisms impair long-term retention by limiting momentary awareness of the memories, yet they operate in opposite ways. One mechanism, direct suppression, disengages episodic retrieval through the systemic inhibition of hippocampal processing that originates from right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC). The opposite mechanism, thought substitution, instead engages retrieval processes to occupy the limited focus of awareness with a substitute memory. It is mediated by interactions between left caudal and midventrolateral PFC that support the selective retrieval of substitutes in the context of prepotent, unwanted memories. These findings suggest that we are not at the mercy of passive forgetting; rather, our memories can be shaped by two opposite mechanisms of mnemonic control.
Project description:Episodic memory retrieval is thought to involve reinstatement of the neurocognitive processes engaged when an episode was encoded. Prior fMRI studies and computational models have suggested that reinstatement is limited to instances in which specific episodic details are recollected. We used multivoxel pattern-classification analyses of fMRI data to investigate how reinstatement is associated with different memory judgments, particularly those accompanied by recollection versus a feeling of familiarity (when recollection is absent). Classifiers were trained to distinguish between brain activity patterns associated with different encoding tasks and were subsequently applied to recognition-related fMRI data to determine the degree to which patterns were reinstated. Reinstatement was evident during both recollection- and familiarity-based judgments, providing clear evidence that reinstatement is not sufficient for eliciting a recollective experience. The findings are interpreted as support for a continuous, recollection-related neural signal that has been central to recent debate over the nature of recognition memory processes.