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Learn Mem. 2017 Feb 15;24(3):104-114. doi: 10.1101/lm.044032.116. Print 2017 Mar.

Recollection-dependent memory for event duration in large-scale spatial navigation.

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Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario M5S 3G3, Canada.
Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest, Toronto, Ontario M6A 2E1, Canada.
Department of Psychology, State University of New York at Geneseo, Geneseo, New York 14454, USA.


Time and space represent two key aspects of episodic memories, forming the spatiotemporal context of events in a sequence. Little is known, however, about how temporal information, such as the duration and the order of particular events, are encoded into memory, and if it matters whether the memory representation is based on recollection or familiarity. To investigate this issue, we used a real world virtual reality navigation paradigm where periods of navigation were interspersed with pauses of different durations. Crucially, participants were able to reliably distinguish the durations of events that were subjectively "reexperienced" (i.e., recollected), but not of those that were familiar. This effect was not found in temporal order (ordinal) judgments. We also show that the active experience of the passage of time (holding down a key while waiting) moderately enhanced duration memory accuracy. Memory for event duration, therefore, appears to rely on the hippocampally supported ability to recollect or reexperience an event enabling the reinstatement of both its duration and its spatial context, to distinguish it from other events in a sequence. In contrast, ordinal memory appears to rely on familiarity and recollection to a similar extent.

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