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Publication Detail
Behavioral evidence for pattern separation in human episodic memory.
An essential feature of episodic memory is the ability to recall the multiple elements relating to one event from the multitude of elements relating to other, potentially similar events. Hippocampal pattern separation is thought to play a fundamental role in this process, by orthogonalizing the representations of overlapping events during encoding, to reduce interference between them during the process of pattern completion by which one or other is recalled. We introduce a new paradigm to test the hypothesis that similar memories, but not unrelated memories, are actively separated at encoding. Participants memorized events which were either unique or shared a common element with another event (paired "overlapping" events). We used a measure of dependency, originally devised to measure pattern completion, to quantify how much the probability of successfully retrieving associations from one event depends on successful retrieval of associations from the same event, an unrelated event or the overlapping event. In two experiments, we saw that within event retrievals were highly dependent, indicating pattern completion; retrievals from unrelated events were independent; and retrievals from overlapping events were antidependent (i.e., less than independent), indicating pattern separation. This suggests that representations of similar (overlapping) memories are actively separated, resulting in lowered dependency of retrieval performance between them, as would be predicted by the pattern separation account.
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