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However, have shown that having access to memory details is not enough – we have to be able to combine these in a meaningful way that results in a coherent future scenario.
Addis: Because I am interested in autobiographical memory and imagination, I have aimed to keep my studies as naturalistic as possible while still retaining sufficient experimental control.
Many of my studies have incorporated two important design elements: (1) using personally-tailored stimuli (based on a participant’s own memories) to elicit memories and simulations; and (2) collecting ratings about the participant’s subjective inner experience. In the first session, participants recall episodic memories from their past, identifying a person, place and object featuring in each memory.
In f MRI studies, this design enables us to compare and contrast brain activity during memory retrieval and future simulation and how this changes according to subjective experience.
In behavioral studies, participants describe their memories and imaginings aloud; we then score in very fine detail the different kinds of content comprising their descriptions.
Two lines of research provide strong evidence that this is indeed the case.
First, when imagining future events, that is active is strikingly similar to the network that is activated by remembering our past.
One of the essential functions of the hippocampus may be the ability to integrate or “bind” different elements.
So when we need to integrate information together – whether different features of a perceived object, disparate elements into a creative idea, two landmarks across town, or episodic memory details into an imagined scenario – the hippocampus makes an important contribution to making these links.
Do all kinds of future simulation result in similar patterns of brain activity?
What makes some simulations memorable and other forgettable?