Abstract

Numerous studies indicate the importance of the hippocampus to temporal order retrieval. However, behavioral studies suggest that there are different ways to retrieve temporal order information from encoded sequences, one involving an associative strategy (retrieving associations using neighboring items in a list) and another involving a recency strategy (determining which of two items came first). It remains unresolved, however, whether both strategies recruit the hippocampus or only associative strategies, consistent with the hippocampus's role in relational processing. To address this, we developed a paradigm in which we dissociated associative versus recency-based retrieval, involving the same stimulus presentation during retrieval. Associative retrieval involved an increase in RT (and decrease in performance) with greater distances between intervals, consistent with the need to retrieve intervening associations. Recency-based retrieval involved an increase in RT (and decrease in performance) with shorter distances between intervals, suggesting the use of a strength-based coding mechanism to retrieve information. We employed fMRI to determine the neural basis of the different strategies. Both strategies showed significant levels of hippocampal activation and connectivity that did not differ between tasks. In contrast, both univariate and connectivity pattern analyses revealed differences in extrahippocampal areas such as parietal and frontal cortices. A covariate analysis suggested that differences could not be explained by task difficulty alone. Together, these findings suggest that the hippocampus plays a role in both forms of temporal order retrieval, with neocortical networks mediating the different cognitive demands for associative versus recency-based temporal order retrieval.

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