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Neuroimage. 2011 Jun 1;56(3):1803-13. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2011.02.033. Epub 2011 Feb 18.

Dissociable networks involved in spatial and temporal order source retrieval.

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Center for Neuroscience, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


Space and time are important components of our episodic memories. Without this information, we cannot determine the "where and when" of our recent memories, rendering it difficult to disambiguate individual episodes from each other. The neural underpinnings of spatial and temporal order memory in humans remain unclear, in part because of difficulties in disentangling the contributions of these two types of source information. To address this issue, we conducted an experiment in which participants first navigated a virtual city, experiencing unique routes in a specific temporal order and learning about the spatial layout of the city. Spatial and temporal order information were dissociated in our task such that learning one type of information did not facilitate the other behaviorally. This allowed us to then address the extent to which the two types of information involved functionally distinct or overlapping brain areas. During functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), participants retrieved information about the relative distance of stores within the city (spatial task) and the temporal order of stores from each other (temporal task). Comparable hippocampal activity was observed during these two tasks, but greater prefrontal activity was seen during temporal order retrieval whereas greater parahippocampal activity was seen during spatial retrieval. We suggest that while the brain possesses dissociable networks for maintaining and representing spatial layout and temporal order components of episodic memory, this information may converge into a common representation for source memory in areas such as the hippocampus.

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