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Adam Steel, Madeleine Billings, Caroline Robertson; The place memory network: A network of brain areas supporting perception and memory of familiar places.. Journal of Vision 2020;20(11):1391. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.1391.
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Successful navigation requires integrating the current field-of-view with your memory of the surrounding environment. However, the neural circuitry mediating the interaction between perception and memory for scenes is not well understood. Here, we investigated the interaction between place memory and scene perception using fMRI.
In Experiment 1, we identified the “place memory network”, a set of brain areas selectively engaged when participants (n=16) performed mental imagery of familiar places (versus people). In each participant, these regions overlapped with, but were distinct from, the perceptual scene network (including the parahippocampal place area, occipital place area, and medial place area). The place memory regions typically deactivate during visual presentation of unfamiliar scenes, suggesting that these regions are not visually responsive. However, in Experiment 2, we found that the place memory network responds to visual scenes if the image is of a personally familiar place. Specifically, we showed participants panning movies that included personally familiar places and unfamiliar places (e.g. your house versus an unfamiliar house) and examined activation of the place memory and scene perception networks. Regions of the place memory network showed a strong preference for familiar compared to unfamiliar places (p<0.001) above and beyond regions of the perceptual scene network (Interaction: p<001). These results show that the place memory network responds to visual stimulation if spatial context is known and suggest a role for these areas in processing familiar environments. Finally, we examined the functional relationships between the scene perception and place memory networks by evaluating functional connectivity during movie watching. We found that, despite their spatial discontinuity, the regions of the place memory network were strongly connected relative to their connection with the scene perception network. These data suggest that the place memory network may play a role in perception by representing the remembered environment.
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