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Hippocampus. 2019 Mar;29(3):162-183. doi: 10.1002/hipo.23074. Epub 2019 Feb 7.

Transcending time in the brain: How event memories are constructed from experience.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, New York University, New York City, New York.
2
Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey.
3
Department of Psychology, Columbia University, New York City, New York.
4
Nathan Kline Institute, Orangeburg, New York.

Abstract

Our daily lives unfold continuously, yet when we reflect on the past, we remember those experiences as distinct and cohesive events. To understand this phenomenon, early investigations focused on how and when individuals perceive natural breakpoints, or boundaries, in ongoing experience. More recent research has examined how these boundaries modulate brain mechanisms that support long-term episodic memory. This work has revealed that a complex interplay between hippocampus and prefrontal cortex promotes the integration and separation of sequential information to help organize our experiences into mnemonic events. Here, we discuss how both temporal stability and change in one's thoughts, goals, and surroundings may provide scaffolding for these neural processes to link and separate memories across time. When learning novel or familiar sequences of information, dynamic hippocampal processes may work both independently from and in concert with other brain regions to bind sequential representations together in memory. The formation and storage of discrete episodic memories may occur both proactively as an experience unfolds. They may also occur retroactively, either during a context shift or when reactivation mechanisms bring the past into the present to allow integration. We also describe conditions and factors that shape the construction and integration of event memories across different timescales. Together these findings shed new light on how the brain transcends time to transform everyday experiences into meaningful memory representations.

KEYWORDS:

context; episodic memory; event segmentation; events; hippocampus; integration; prefrontal cortex; temporal context; time

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