Structuring time: The hippocampus constructs sequence memories that generalize temporal relations across experiences

Abstract

The hippocampal-entorhinal region supports memory for episodic details, such as temporal relations of sequential events, and mnemonic constructions combining experiences for inferential reasoning. However, it is unclear whether hippocampal event representations reflect temporal relations derived from mnemonic constructions, event order, or elapsing time, and whether they generalize temporal relations across similar sequences. Here, participants mnemonically constructed times of events from multiple sequences using infrequent cues and their experience of passing time. After learning, event representations in the anterior hippocampus reflected sequence relations based on constructed times. These event representations generalized across sequences, revealing distinct representational formats for events from the same or different sequences. Structural knowledge about time patterns, abstracted from different sequences, biased the construction of specific event times. These findings demonstrate that the hippocampus reconciles representations of specific relations with the generalization across different episodes, consistent with memory-based constructions combining episodic details and general knowledge to simulate scenarios.

bioRxiv
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