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Differential engagement of brain regions within a ‘core’ network during scene construction

Summerfield, J.J.; Hassabis, D.; Maguire, E.A.; (2010) Differential engagement of brain regions within a ‘core’ network during scene construction. Neuropsychologia , 48 (5) pp. 1501-1509. 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.01.022.

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Abstract

Reliving past events and imagining potential future events engages a well-established “core” network of brain areas. How the brain constructs, or reconstructs, these experiences or scenes has been debated extensively in the literature, but remains poorly understood. Here we designed a novel task to investigate this (re)constructive process by directly exploring how naturalistic scenes are built up from their individual elements. We “slowed-down” the construction process through the use of auditorily presented phrases describing single scene elements in a serial manner. Participants were required to integrate these elements (ranging from three to six in number) together in their imagination to form a naturalistic scene. We identified three distinct sub-networks of brain areas, each with different fMRI BOLD response profiles, favouring specific points in the scene construction process. Areas including the hippocampus and retrosplenial cortex had a biphasic profile, activating when a single scene element was imagined and when 3 elements were combined together; regions including the intra-parietal sulcus and angular gyrus steadily increased activity from 1 to 3 elements; while activity in areas such as lateral prefrontal cortex was observed from the second element onwards. Activity in these sub-networks did not increase further when integrating more than three elements. Participants confirmed that three elements were sufficient to construct a coherent and vivid scene, and once this was achieved, the addition of further elements only involved maintenance or small changes to that established scene. This task offers a potentially useful tool for breaking down scene construction, a process that may be key to a range of cognitive functions such as episodic memory, future thinking and navigation.

Type:Article
Title:Differential engagement of brain regions within a ‘core’ network during scene construction
Identifier:20132831
DOI:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.01.022
Publisher version:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2010.01.022
Language:English
Keywords:Scene construction, fMRI, episodic, memory, future thinking, hippocampus, autobiographical, objects
UCL classification:UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Psychology and Language Sciences (Division of) > Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience

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