Context-dependent coding of temporal distance between cinematic events in the human precuneus

Foudil S., Kwok S.C., & Macaluso E.

How temporal and contextual information interactively impact on behavior and brain activity during the retrieval of temporal order about naturalistic episodes remains incompletely understood. Here, we employed fMRI to examine the effects of contextual signals derived from the content of the movie on the neural correlates underlying memory retrieval of temporal-order in human subjects of both sexes. By contrasting same vs. different storyline conditions during the retrieval of the temporal order of cinematic events, we found that the activation in the precuneus, as well as behavior, are significantly modulated according to storyline condition, supporting our prediction of contextual information contributing to temporal retrieval. We suggest that the precuneus engages in memory retrieval via reconstructive mechanisms, entailing search within a movie-specific, situational knowledge-structure. Furthermore, information-based analyses of multi-voxel activity revealed that the precuneus also contains a context-independent linear representation of temporal distances, consistent with a chronological organization of memory traces. We thus put forward that the retrieval of the temporal-order of naturalistic events encoded in rich and dynamic contexts relies on the joint contribution of chronological and reconstructive mechanisms, both of which rely on the medio-posterior parietal cortex in humans.

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