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Cognition. 2016 Sep;154:151-164. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2016.05.013. Epub 2016 Jun 10.

The role of spatial boundaries in shaping long-term event representations.

Author information

1
UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, 17 Queen Sq., London WC1N 3AR, UK; UCL Institute of Neurology, Queen Sq., London WC1 3BG, UK; Department of Psychology, University of York, York YO10 5DD, UK. Electronic address: aidan.horner@york.ac.uk.
2
UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, 17 Queen Sq., London WC1N 3AR, UK; UCL Institute of Neurology, Queen Sq., London WC1 3BG, UK.
3
UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, 17 Queen Sq., London WC1N 3AR, UK.
4
UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, 17 Queen Sq., London WC1N 3AR, UK; UCL Institute of Neurology, Queen Sq., London WC1 3BG, UK. Electronic address: n.burgess@ucl.ac.uk.

Abstract

When remembering the past, we typically recall 'events' that are bounded in time and space. However, as we navigate our environment our senses receive a continuous stream of information. How do we create discrete long-term episodic memories from continuous input? Although previous research has provided evidence for a role of spatial boundaries in the online segmentation of our sensory experience within working memory, it is not known how this segmentation contributes to subsequent long-term episodic memory. Here we show that the presence of a spatial boundary at encoding (a doorway between two rooms) impairs participants' later ability to remember the order that objects were presented in. A sequence of two objects presented in the same room in a virtual reality environment is more accurately remembered than a sequence of two objects presented in adjoining rooms. The results are captured by a simple model in which items are associated to a context representation that changes gradually over time, and changes more rapidly when crossing a spatial boundary. We therefore provide the first evidence that the structure of long-term episodic memory is shaped by the presence of a spatial boundary and provide constraints on the nature of the interaction between working memory and long-term memory.

KEYWORDS:

Computational modelling; Episodic memory; Event segmentation; Spatial memory; Virtual reality

PMID:
27295330
PMCID:
PMC4955252
DOI:
10.1016/j.cognition.2016.05.013
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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