Neural correlates of temporal context retrieval
Temporal context memory is memory for the timing of events. People can make temporal judgments based on strategies such as assessing the relative familiarity of events or inferring temporal order from the semantic associations among events. The purpose of present study is to investigate the brain regions that support temporal context retrieval in the absence of such non-temporal strategies (i.e. pure temporal context memory). We used three word familiar phrases (triplets) as stimuli. In study phase, three words were presented quickly one after another in either familiar or scrambled order. Participants were instructed to read aloud each word and try to remember the order of the words. Then they were tested on their memory for the order of the words in each triplet. We propose that memory for the scrambled triplets reflects primarily temporal retrieval for two reasons. First, participants were prevented from using semantic strategies during encoding. Second, the relative familiarity of the words in each triplet was similar and not diagnostic of the order of the words during encoding. Neuroimaging results indicate that temporal context retrieval, memory for the order of words in scrambled triplets, was associated with the hippocampus, parahippocampal cortex, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, retrosplenial cortex, and posterior cingulate, which are consistent with the retrieval of non-temporal context in episodic memory. The results also suggest that temporal context retrieval could rely on familiarity, which was demonstrated by the higher accuracy and greater activation of PRc in familiar phrases and scrambled triplets presented in studied order in the test phase.