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Life is like a box of hippocampal scenes

Neuroimaging study of participants watching Forrest Gump is among the first to measure hippocampus activity during a natural experience

Society for Neuroscience

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IMAGE: The activity in a brain region called the hippocampus, which is involved in forming new memories, spikes at the boundaries between distinct events within a film. The movie frames shown... view more 

Credit: Aya Ben-Yakov and Richard Henson

A neuroimaging study of human participants watching the 1994 film Forrest Gump and Alfred Hitchcock's 1961 television drama Bang! You're Dead suggests an important role for the hippocampus in segmenting our continuous everyday experience into discrete events for storage in long-term memory. The research, published in JNeurosci, is among the first to investigate hippocampal function during a natural experience.

Aya Ben-Yakov and Richard Henson found that the hippocampus responded most strongly to the films at the points that independent observers identified as the end of one event and the beginning of a new one. The researchers found a strong match between these event boundaries and participants' hippocampal activity, varying according to the degree to which the independent observers agreed on the transition points between events. While watching the two-hour long Forrest Gump, hippocampal response was more strongly influenced by the subjective event boundaries than by what the filmmaker may consider a transition between scenes, such as a change in location. This suggests that the hippocampus is sensitive to meaningful units of experience rather than perceptual cues.

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Article: The hippocampal film-editor: sensitivity and specificity to event boundaries in continuous experience* DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0524-18.2018 Corresponding author: Aya Ben-Yakov (MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, University of Cambridge, UK), aya.ben-yakov@mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk

*A preprint of this manuscript has been posted on bioRxiv

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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