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Nat Commun. 2015 Aug 25;6:8151. doi: 10.1038/ncomms9151.

Learning-related representational changes reveal dissociable integration and separation signatures in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex.

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Center for Learning and Memory, The University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station, C7000, Austin, Texas 78712, USA.
Department of Psychology, The University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station, A8000, Austin, TX 78712, USA.
Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1500 Highland Avenue, Suite S119, Madison, Wisconsin 53705-2280, USA.
Department of Neuroscience, The University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station, C0920, Austin, TX 78712, USA.


The episodic memory system enables accurate retrieval while maintaining flexibility by representing both specific episodes and generalizations across events. Although theories suggest that the hippocampus (HPC) is dedicated to represent specific episodes while the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) generalizes, other accounts posit that HPC can also integrate related memories. Here we use high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging in humans to examine how representations of memory elements change to either differentiate or generalize across related events. We show that while posterior HPC and anterior MPFC maintain distinct memories for individual events, anterior HPC and posterior MPFC integrate across memories. Integration is particularly likely for established memories versus those encoded simultaneously, highlighting the greater impact of prior knowledge on new encoding. We also show dissociable coding signatures in ventrolateral PFC, a region previously implicated in interference resolution. These data highlight how memory elements are represented to simultaneously promote generalization across memories and protect from interference.

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