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Hippocampus. 2015 Sep;25(9):1028-41. doi: 10.1002/hipo.22425. Epub 2015 Mar 26.

Hippocampal contribution to implicit configuration memory expressed via eye movements during scene exploration.

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Department of Medical Social Sciences, Ken and Ruth Davee Department of Neurology, and Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois.


Although hippocampus unequivocally supports explicit/declarative memory, fewer findings have demonstrated its role in implicit expressions of memory. We tested for hippocampal contributions to an implicit expression of configural/relational memory for complex scenes using eye-movement tracking during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanning. Participants studied scenes and were later tested using scenes that resembled study scenes in their overall feature configuration but comprised different elements. These configurally similar scenes were used to limit explicit memory, and were intermixed with new scenes that did not resemble studied scenes. Scene configuration memory was expressed through eye movements reflecting exploration overlap (EO), which is the viewing of the same scene locations at both study and test. EO reliably discriminated similar study-test scene pairs from study-new scene pairs, was reliably greater for similarity-based recognition hits than for misses, and correlated with hippocampal fMRI activity. In contrast, subjects could not reliably discriminate similar from new scenes by overt judgments, although ratings of familiarity were slightly higher for similar than new scenes. Hippocampal fMRI correlates of this weak explicit memory were distinct from EO-related activity. These findings collectively suggest that EO was an implicit expression of scene configuration memory associated with hippocampal activity. Visual exploration can therefore reflect implicit hippocampal-related memory processing that can be observed in eye-movement behavior during naturalistic scene viewing.


familiarity; global matching; implicit memory; scene recognition; similarity

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