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Cortical and subcortical contributions to sequence retrieval: Schematic coding of temporal context in the neocortical recollection network


Episodic memory entails the ability to remember what happened when. Although the available evidence indicates that the hippocampus plays a role in structuring serial order information during retrieval of event sequences, information processed in the hippocampus must be conveyed to other cortical and subcortical areas in order to guide behavior. However, the extent to which other brain regions contribute to the temporal organization of episodic memory remains unclear. Here, we examined multivoxel activity pattern changes during retrieval of learned and random object sequences, focusing on a neocortical "core recollection network" that includes the medial prefrontal cortex, retrosplenial cortex, and angular gyrus, as well as on striatal areas including the caudate nucleus and putamen that have been implicated in processing of sequence information. The results demonstrate that regions of the core recollection network carry information about temporal positions within object sequences, irrespective of object information. This schematic coding of temporal information is in contrast to the putamen, which carried information specific to objects in learned sequences, and the caudate, which carried information about objects, irrespective of sequence context. Our results suggest a role for the cortical recollection network in the representation of temporal structure of events during episodic retrieval, and highlight the possible mechanisms by which the striatal areas may contribute to this process. More broadly, the results indicate that temporal sequence retrieval is a useful paradigm for dissecting the contributions of specific brain regions to episodic memory.

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