Time is memory: Temporal relationships shape memories in the hippocampal-entorhinal region


The temporal organization of our experience is central to episodic memory, thought to be supported by the hippocampal-entorhinal region. The lateral entorhinal cortex (EC) carries temporal information in navigating rodents and its human homologue, the anterior-lateral EC, is activated during accurate temporal memory retrieval. However, how learning a temporal structure shapes entorhinal mnemonic representations remains unclear. In a first study, participants learned temporal and spatial relationships of object positions - dissociated via teleporters - along a fixed route through a virtual city. After learning, multi-voxel representations in the anterior-lateral EC specifically reflected the temporal structure of events. Holistic representations of this temporal structure related to memory recall behavior and we reconstructed the temporal structure of object relationships from entorhinal multi-voxel patterns. In a second study, we investigate the nature of temporal information underlying temporal mapping in the hippocampal-entorhinal region. Based on infrequent unmaskings of a hidden clock, participants learned when events occurred during virtual days, partially dissociating the event times from their sequential order and the time objectively elapsed between them. We show representations of temporal relationships based on time within virtual days in the hippocampus and anterior-lateral EC. Together, our findings demonstrate that temporal relationships between events are represented in the anterior-lateral subregion of the EC specifically. Further, temporal maps in the hippocampal-entorhinal region are shaped by temporal information above and beyond sequence order and elapsed time. These findings provide novel evidence for the way in which time organizes episodic memories in the hippocampal-entorhinal region.

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA