Imagining the future: The core episodic simulation network dissociates as a function of timecourse and the amount of simulated information.
Cortex. 2017 May;90:12-30.
Thakral PP, Benoit RG, Schacter DL.
Neuroimaging data indicate that episodic memory (i.e., remembering specific past experiences) and episodic simulation (i.e., imagining specific future experiences) are associated with enhanced activity in a common set of neural regions, often referred to as the core network. This network comprises the hippocampus, parahippocampal cortex, lateral and medial parietal cortex, lateral temporal cortex, and medial prefrontal cortex. Evidence for a core network has been taken as support for the idea that episodic memory and episodic simulation are supported by common processes. Much remains to be learned about how specific core network regions contribute to specific aspects of episodic simulation. Prior neuroimaging studies of episodic memory indicate that certain regions within the core network are differentially sensitive to the amount of information recollected (e.g., the left lateral parietal cortex). In addition, certain core network regions dissociate as a function of their timecourse of engagement during episodic memory (e.g., transient activity in the posterior hippocampus and sustained activity in the left lateral parietal cortex). In the current study, we assessed whether similar dissociations could be observed during episodic simulation. We found that the left lateral parietal cortex modulates as a function of the amount of simulated details. Of particular interest, while the hippocampus was insensitive to the amount of simulated details, we observed a temporal dissociation within the hippocampus: transient activity occurred in relatively posterior portions of the hippocampus and sustained activity occurred in anterior portions. Because the posterior hippocampal and lateral parietal findings parallel those observed during episodic memory, the present results add to the evidence that episodic memory and episodic simulation are supported by common processes. Critically, the present study also provides evidence that regions within the core network support dissociable processes.