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Characterising the hippocampal response to perception, construction and complexity

McCormick, C; Dalton, MA; Zeidman, P; Maguire, EA; (2021) Characterising the hippocampal response to perception, construction and complexity. Cortex 10.1016/j.cortex.2020.12.018. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

The precise role played by the hippocampus in supporting cognitive functions such as episodic memory and future thinking is debated, but there is general agreement that it involves constructing representations comprised of numerous elements. Visual scenes have been deployed extensively in cognitive neuroscience because they are paradigmatic multi-element stimuli. However, questions remain about the specificity and nature of the hippocampal response to scenes. Here, we devised a paradigm in which we had participants search pairs of images for either colour or layout differences, thought to be associated with perceptual or spatial constructive processes respectively. Importantly, images depicted either naturalistic scenes or phase-scrambled versions of the same scenes, and were either simple or complex. Using this paradigm during functional MRI scanning, we addressed three questions: 1. Is the hippocampus recruited specifically during scene processing? 2. If the hippocampus is more active in response to scenes, does searching for colour or layout differences influence its activation? 3. Does the complexity of the scenes affect its response? We found that, compared to phase-scrambled versions of the scenes, the hippocampus was more responsive to scene stimuli. Moreover, a clear anatomical distinction was evident, with colour detection in scenes engaging the posterior hippocampus whereas layout detection in scenes recruited the anterior hippocampus. The complexity of the scenes did not influence hippocampal activity. These findings seem to align with perspectives that propose the hippocampus is especially attuned to scenes, and its involvement occurs irrespective of the cognitive process or the complexity of the scenes.

Type: Article
Title: Characterising the hippocampal response to perception, construction and complexity
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.cortex.2020.12.018
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2020.12.018
Language: English
Additional information: This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: hippocampus, scene perception, scene construction, visual complexity
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10119907
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