Saturday, May 30, 2020

Hippocampal Contribution to Ordinal Psychological Time in the Human Brain

The chronology of events in time–space is naturally available to the senses, and the spatial and temporal dimensions of events entangle in episodic memory when navigating the real world. The mapping of time–space during navigation in both animals and humans implicates the hippocampal formation. Yet, one arguably unique human trait is the capacity to imagine mental chronologies that have not been experienced but may involve real events—the foundation of causal reasoning. Herein, we asked whether the hippocampal formation is involved in mental navigation in time (and space), which requires internal manipulations of events in time and space from an egocentric perspective. To address this question, we reanalyzed a magnetoencephalography data set collected while participants self-projected in time or in space and ordered historical events as occurring before/after or west/east of the mental self [Gauthier, B., Pestke, K., & van Wassenhove, V. Building the arrow of time… Over time: A sequence of brain activity mapping imagined events in time and space. Cerebral Cortex29, 4398–4414, 2019]. Because of the limitations of source reconstruction algorithms in the previous study, the implication of hippocampus proper could not be explored. Here, we used a source reconstruction method accounting explicitly for the hippocampal volume to characterize the involvement of deep structures belonging to the hippocampal formation (bilateral hippocampi [hippocampus proper], entorhinal cortices, and parahippocampal cortex). We found selective involvement of the medial temporal lobes (MTLs) with a notable lateralization of the main effects: Whereas temporal ordinality engaged mostly the left MTL, spatial ordinality engaged mostly the right MTL. We discuss the possibility of a top–down control of activity in the human hippocampal formation during mental time (and space) travels.

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