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Building Mental Experiences: From Scenes to Events

Monk, Anna Mary; (2021) Building Mental Experiences: From Scenes to Events. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Mental events are central to everyday cognition, be it our continuous perception of the world, recalling autobiographical memories, or imagining the future. Little is known about the fine-grained temporal dynamics of these processes. Given the apparent predominance of scene imagery across cognition, in this thesis I used magnetoencephalography to investigate whether and how activity in the hippocampus and ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) supports the mental construction of scenes and the events to which they give rise. In the first experiment, participants gradually imagined scenes and also closely matched non-scene arrays; this allowed me to assess whether any brain regions showed preferential responses to scene imagery. The anterior hippocampus and vmPFC were particularly engaged by the construction of scene imagery, with the vmPFC driving hippocampal activity. In the second experiment, I found that certain objects – those that were space-defining – preferentially engaged the vmPFC and superior temporal gyrus during scene construction, providing insight into how objects affect the creation of scene representations. The third experiment involved boundary extension during scene perception, permitting me to examine how single scenes might be prepared for inclusion into events. I observed changes in evoked responses just 12.5-58 ms after scene onset over fronto-temporal sensors, with again the vmPFC exerting a driving influence on other brain regions, including the hippocampus. In the final experiment, participants watched brief movies of events built from a series of scenes or non-scene patterns. A difference in evoked responses between the two event types emerged during the first frame of the movies, the primary source of which was shown to be the hippocampus. The enduring theme of the results across experiments was scene-specific engagement of the hippocampus and vmPFC, with the latter being the driving influence. Overall, this thesis provides insights into the neural dynamics of how scenes are built, made ready for inclusion into unfolding mental episodes, and then linked to produce our seamless experience of the world.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Building Mental Experiences: From Scenes to Events
Event: University College London
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2021. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
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
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10125618
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