Dynamic Content Reactivation Supports Naturalistic Autobiographical Recall in Humans.
ABSTRACT: Humans can vividly recall and re-experience events from their past, and these are commonly referred to as episodic or autobiographical memories. fMRI experiments reliably associate autobiographical event recall with activity in a network of "default" or "core" brain regions. However, as prior studies have relied on covert (silent) recall procedures, current understanding may be hampered by methodological limitations that obscure dynamic effects supporting moment-to-moment content retrieval. Here, fMRI participants (N = 40) overtly (verbally) recalled memories for ?2 min periods. The content of spoken descriptions was categorized using a variant of the Autobiographical Interview (AI) procedure (Levine et al., 2002) and temporally re-aligned with BOLD data so activity accompanying the recall of different details could be measured. Replicating prior work, sustained effects associated with autobiographical recall periods (which are insensitive to the moment-to-moment content of retrieval) fell primarily within canonical default network regions. Spoken descriptions were rich in episodic details, frequently focusing on physical entities, their ongoing activities, and their appearances. Critically, neural activity associated with recalling specific details (e.g., those related to people or places) was transient, broadly distributed, and grounded in category-selective cortex (e.g., regions related to social cognition or scene processing). Thus, although a single network may generally support the process of vivid event reconstruction, the structures required to provide detail-related information shift in a predictable manner that respects domain-level representations across the cortex.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Humans can vividly recall memories of autobiographical episodes, a process thought to involve the reconstruction of numerous distinct event details. Yet how the brain represents a complex episode as it unfolds over time remains unclear and appears inconsistent across experimental traditions. One hurdle is the use of covert (silent) in-scanner recall to study autobiographical memory, which prevents experimenter knowledge of what information is being retrieved, and when, throughout the remembering process. In this experiment, participants overtly described autobiographical memories while undergoing fMRI. Activity associated with the recall and description of specific details was transient, broadly distributed, and grounded in category-selective cortex. Thus, it appears that as events unfold mentally, structures are dynamically reactivated to support vivid recollection.
Project description:The necessity of the human hippocampus for remote autobiographical recall remains fiercely debated. The standard model of consolidation predicts a time-limited role for the hippocampus, but the competing multiple trace/trace transformation theories posit indefinite involvement. Lesion evidence remains inconclusive, and the inferences one can draw from functional MRI (fMRI) have been limited by reliance on covert (silent) recall, which obscures dynamic, moment-to-moment content of retrieved memories. Here, we capitalized on advances in fMRI denoising to employ overtly spoken recall. Forty participants retrieved recent and remote memories, describing each for approximately 2 min. Details associated with each memory were identified and modeled in the fMRI time-series data using a variant of the Autobiographical Interview procedure, and activity associated with the recall of recent and remote memories was then compared. Posterior hippocampal regions exhibited temporally graded activity patterns (recent events > remote events), as did several regions of frontal and parietal cortex. Consistent with predictions of the standard model, recall-related hippocampal activity differed from a non-autobiographical control task only for recent, and not remote, events. Task-based connectivity between posterior hippocampal regions and others associated with mental scene construction also exhibited a temporal gradient, with greater connectivity accompanying the recall of recent events. These findings support predictions of the standard model of consolidation and demonstrate the potential benefits of overt recall in neuroimaging experiments.
Project description:The story of our lifetime - our narrative self - is constructed from our autobiographical memories. A central claim of social psychology is that this narrative self is inherently social: When we construct our lives, we do so in a real or imagined interaction. This predicts that self-referential processes which are involved in recall of autobiographical memories overlap with processes involved in social interactions. Indeed, previous functional MRI studies indicate that regions in the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) are activated during autobiographical memory recall and virtual communication. However, no fMRI study has investigated recall of autobiographical memories in a real-life interaction. We developed a novel paradigm in which participants overtly reported self-related and other-related memories to an experimenter, whose non-verbal reactions were being filmed and online displayed to the participants in the scanner. We found that recall of autobiographical vs. non-autobiographical memories was associated with activation of the mPFC, as was recall in the social as compared to a non-social control condition; however, both contrasts involved different non-overlapping regions within the mPFC. These results indicate that self-referential processes involved in autobiographical memory recall are different from processes supporting social interactions, and argue against the hypothesis that autobiographical memories are inherently social.
Project description:The hippocampus has long been implicated in supporting autobiographical memories, but little is known about how they are instantiated in hippocampal subfields. Using high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) combined with multivoxel pattern analysis we found that it was possible to detect representations of specific autobiographical memories in individual hippocampal subfields. Moreover, while subfields in the anterior hippocampus contained information about both recent (2 weeks old) and remote (10 years old) autobiographical memories, posterior CA3 and DG only contained information about the remote memories. Thus, the hippocampal subfields are differentially involved in the representation of recent and remote autobiographical memories during vivid recall.
Project description:Evidence from self-reports and laboratory studies suggests that recall of nontrauma autobiographical memories may be disturbed in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but investigations in everyday life are sparse. This study investigated unintentional nontrauma and trauma memories in trauma survivors with and without PTSD (N = 52), who kept an autobiographical memory diary for a week. We investigated whether unintentional nontrauma memories show an overgeneral memory bias and further memory abnormalities in people with PTSD, and whether unintentional trauma memories show distinct features. Compared to the no-PTSD group, the PTSD group recorded fewer nontrauma memories, which were more overgeneral, more often from before the trauma or related to the trauma, were perceived as distant, and led to greater dwelling. Trauma memories were more vivid, recurrent, and present and led to greater suppression and dwelling. Within the PTSD group, the same features distinguished trauma and nontrauma memories. Results are discussed regarding theories of autobiographical memory and PTSD.
Project description:Reminders of happy memories can bring back pleasant feelings tied to the original experience, suggesting an intrinsic value in reminiscing about the positive past. However, the neural circuitry underlying the rewarding aspects of autobiographical memory is poorly understood. Using fMRI, we observed enhanced activity during the recall of positive relative to neutral autobiographical memories in corticostriatal circuits that also responded to monetary reward. Enhanced activity in the striatum and medial prefrontal cortex was associated with increases in positive emotion during recall, and striatal engagement further correlated with individual measures of resiliency. Striatal response to the recall of positive memories was greater in individuals whose mood improved after the task. Notably, participants were willing to sacrifice a more tangible reward, money, in order to reminisce about positive past experiences. Our findings suggest that recalling positive autobiographical memories is intrinsically valuable, which may be adaptive for regulating positive emotion and promoting better well-being.
Project description:When making choices between smaller, sooner rewards and larger, later ones, people tend to discount future outcomes. Individual differences in temporal discounting in older adults have been associated with episodic memory abilities and entorhinal cortical thickness. The cause of this association between better memory and more future-oriented choice remains unclear, however. One possibility is that people with perceptually richer recollections are more patient because they also imagine the future more vividly. Alternatively, perhaps people whose memories focus more on the meaning of events (i.e., are more "gist-based") show reduced temporal discounting, since imagining the future depends on interactions between semantic and episodic memory. We examined which categories of episodic details - perception-based or gist-based - are associated with temporal discounting in older adults. Older adults whose autobiographical memories were richer in perception-based details showed reduced temporal discounting. Furthermore, in an exploratory neuroanatomical analysis, both discount rates and perception-based details correlated with entorhinal cortical thickness. Retrieving autobiographical memories before choice did not affect temporal discounting, however, suggesting that activating episodic memory circuitry at the time of choice is insufficient to alter discounting in older adults. These findings elucidate the role of episodic memory in decision making, which will inform interventions to nudge intertemporal choices.
Project description:Considerable recent evidence indicates that angular gyrus dysfunction in humans does not result in amnesia, but does impair a number of aspects of episodic memory. Patients with parietal lobe lesions have been reported to exhibit a deficit when freely recalling autobiographical events from their pasts, but can remember details of the events when recall is cued by specific questions. In apparent contradiction, inhibitory brain stimulation targeting angular gyrus in healthy volunteers has been found to have no effect on free recall or cued recall of word pairs. The present study sought to resolve this inconsistency by testing free and cued recall of both autobiographical memories and word-pair memories in the same healthy male and female human participants following continuous theta burst stimulation (cTBS) of angular gyrus and a vertex control location. Angular gyrus cTBS resulted in a selective reduction in the free recall, but not cued recall, of autobiographical memories, whereas free and cued recall of word-pair memories were unaffected. Additionally, participants reported fewer autobiographical episodes as being experienced from a first-person perspective following angular gyrus cTBS. The findings add to a growing body of evidence that a function of angular gyrus within the network of brain regions responsible for episodic recollection is to integrate memory features within an egocentric framework into the kind of first-person perspective representation that enables the subjective experience of remembering events from our personal pasts.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT In seeking to understand the role played by the angular gyrus region of parietal cortex in human memory, interpreting the often conflicting findings from neuroimaging and neuropsychology studies has been hampered by differences in anatomical specificity and localization between methods. In the present study, we address these limitations using continuous theta burst stimulation in healthy volunteers to disrupt function of angular gyrus and a vertex control region. With this method, we adjudicate between two competing theories of parietal lobe function, finding evidence that is inconsistent with an attentional role for angular gyrus in memory, supporting instead an account in terms of integrating memory features within an egocentric framework into a first-person perspective representation that enables the subjective experience of remembering.
Project description:<h4>Introduction</h4>Ruminative (abstract verbal) processing during recall of aversive autobiographical memories may serve to dampen their short-term affective impact. Experimental studies indeed demonstrate that verbal processing of non-autobiographical material and positive autobiographical memories evokes weaker affective responses than imagery-based processing. In the current study, we hypothesized that abstract verbal or concrete verbal processing of an aversive autobiographical memory would result in weaker affective responses than imagery-based processing.<h4>Methods</h4>The affective impact of abstract verbal versus concrete verbal versus imagery-based processing during recall of an aversive autobiographical memory was investigated in a non-clinical sample (<i>n</i>?=?99) using both an observational and an experimental design. Observationally, it was examined whether spontaneous use of processing modes (both state and trait measures) was associated with impact of aversive autobiographical memory recall on negative and positive affect. Experimentally, the causal relation between processing modes and affective impact was investigated by manipulating the processing mode during retrieval of the same aversive autobiographical memory.<h4>Results</h4>Main findings were that higher levels of trait (but not state) measures of both ruminative and imagery-based processing and depressive symptomatology were positively correlated with higher levels of negative affective impact in the observational part of the study. In the experimental part, no main effect of processing modes on affective impact of autobiographical memories was found. However, a significant moderating effect of depressive symptomatology was found. Only for individuals with low levels of depressive symptomatology, concrete verbal (but not abstract verbal) processing of the aversive autobiographical memory did result in weaker affective responses, compared to imagery-based processing.<h4>Discussion</h4>These results cast doubt on the hypothesis that ruminative processing of aversive autobiographical memories serves to avoid the negative emotions evoked by such memories. Furthermore, findings suggest that depressive symptomatology is associated with the spontaneous use and the affective impact of processing modes during recall of aversive autobiographical memories. Clinical studies are needed that examine the role of processing modes during aversive autobiographical memory recall in depression, including the potential effectiveness of targeting processing modes in therapy.
Project description:Episodic details populate autobiographical memories with vivid representations of people, objects, and event happenings, and they link events to a specific time and place. Episodic detail generation is believed to be a function of medial temporal lobe (MTL)-cortical interaction, but much remains unclear about how this retrieval process unfolds. In the present study, we combined an autobiographical interview and diffusion magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the relationships of two types of episodic detail, namely details about entities of an event (people and objects) or "event elements" and details about spatiotemporal context, to the integrity of anterotemporal (uncinate fasciculus; UF) and posteromedial (cingulum bundle; CB) cortical pathways. We also measured the relationships of these detail types to the fornix, and the relationship between non-episodic details and these tracts. We found that only episodic detail generation was significantly related to cortical and hippocampal pathways. Notably, the UF was more strongly related to event element details than it was to spatiotemporal context details. In contrast, CB was significantly and similarly related to the generation of event element and spatiotemporal context details (when not controlling for age and global diffusion). The fornix was also significantly related to both types of episodic detail, although the relationship to spatiotemporal context was particularly robust. These findings support the idea that anterotemporal cortical regions are related to the retrieval of episodic details about the entities that are incorporated into autobiographical events. Our findings also align with the notion that posteromedial and hippocampal-cortical involvement support the retrieval of episodic details.
Project description:Whilst patients with semantic dementia (SD) are known to suffer from semantic memory and language impairments, there is less agreement about whether memory for personal everyday experiences, autobiographical memory, is compromised. In healthy individuals, functional MRI (fMRI) has helped to delineate a consistent and distributed brain network associated with autobiographical recollection. Here we examined how the progression of SD affected the brain's autobiographical memory network over time. We did this by testing autobiographical memory recall in a SD patient, AM, with fMRI on three occasions, each one year apart, during the course of his disease. At the outset, his autobiographical memory was intact. This was followed by a gradual loss in recollective quality that collapsed only late in the course of the disease. There was no evidence of a temporal gradient. Initially, AM's recollection was supported by the classic autobiographical memory network, including atrophied tissue in hippocampus and temporal neocortex. This was subsequently augmented by up-regulation of other parts of the memory system, namely ventromedial and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, right lateral temporal cortex, and precuneus. A final step-change in the areas engaged and the quality of recollection then preceded the collapse of autobiographical memory. Our findings inform theoretical debates about the role of the hippocampus and neocortical areas in supporting remote autobiographical memories. Furthermore, our results suggest it may be possible to define specific stages in SD-related memory decline, and that fMRI could complement MRI and neuropsychological measures in providing more precise prognostic and rehabilitative information for clinicians and carers.