How does the human brain recall and connect relevant memories with unfolding events? To study this, we presented 25 healthy subjects, during functional magnetic resonance imaging, the movie ‘Memento’ (director C. Nolan). In this movie, scenes are presented in chronologically reverse order with certain scenes briefly overlapping previously presented scenes. Such overlapping “key-frames” serve as effective memory cues for the viewers, prompting recall of relevant memories of the previously seen scene and connecting them with the concurrent scene. We hypothesized that these repeating key-frames serve as immediate recall cues and would facilitate reconstruction of the story piece-by-piece. The chronological version of Memento, shown in a separate experiment for another group of subjects, served as a control condition. Using multivariate event-related pattern analysis method and representational similarity analysis, focal fingerprint patterns of hemodynamic activity were found to emerge during presentation of key-frame scenes. This effect was present in higher-order cortical network with regions including precuneus, angular gyrus, cingulate gyrus, as well as lateral, superior, and middle frontal gyri within frontal poles. This network was right hemispheric dominant. These distributed patterns of brain activity appear to underlie ability to recall relevant memories and connect them with ongoing events, i.e., “what goes with what” in a complex story. Given the real-life likeness of cinematic experience, these results provide new insight into how the human brain recalls, given proper cues, relevant memories to facilitate understanding and prediction of everyday life events.
- Naturalistic stimulus
- Pattern analysis