Content Tuning in the Medial Temporal Lobe Cortex: Voxels that Perceive, Retrieve.
Schultz H., Tibon R., LaRocque KF., Gagnon SA., Wagner AD., Staresina BP.
How do we recall vivid details from our past based only on sparse cues? Research suggests that the phenomenological reinstatement of past experiences is accompanied by neural reinstatement of the original percept. This process critically depends on the medial temporal lobe (MTL). Within the MTL, perirhinal cortex (PRC) and parahippocampal cortex (PHC) are thought to support encoding and recall of objects and scenes, respectively, with the hippocampus (HC) serving as a content-independent hub. If the fidelity of recall indeed arises from neural reinstatement of perceptual activity, then successful recall should preferentially draw upon those neural populations within content-sensitive MTL cortex that are tuned to the same content during perception. We tested this hypothesis by having eighteen human participants undergo functional MRI (fMRI) while they encoded and recalled objects and scenes paired with words. Critically, recall was cued with the words only. While HC distinguished successful from unsuccessful recall of both objects and scenes, PRC and PHC were preferentially engaged during successful versus unsuccessful object and scene recall, respectively. Importantly, within PRC and PHC, this content-sensitive recall was predicted by content tuning during perception: Across PRC voxels, we observed a positive relationship between object tuning during perception and successful object recall, while across PHC voxels, we observed a positive relationship between scene tuning during perception and successful scene recall. Our results thus highlight content-based roles of MTL cortical regions for episodic memory and reveal a direct mapping between content-specific tuning during perception and successful recall.