Distinct cortical systems reinstate the content and context of episodic memories

James E. Kragel, Youssef Ezzyat, Bradley C. Lega, Michael R. Sperling, Gregory A. Worrell, Robert E. Gross, Barbara C. Jobst, Sameer A. Sheth, Kareem A. Zaghloul, Joel M. Stein, Michael J. Kahana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Episodic recall depends upon the reinstatement of cortical activity present during the formation of a memory. Evidence from functional neuroimaging and invasive recordings in humans suggest that reinstatement organizes our memories by time or content, yet the neural systems involved in reinstating these unique types of information remain unclear. Here, combining computational modeling and intracranial recordings from 69 epilepsy patients, we show that two cortical systems uniquely reinstate the semantic content and temporal context of previously studied items during free recall. Examining either the posterior medial or anterior temporal networks, we find that forward encoding models trained on the brain’s response to the temporal and semantic attributes of items can predict the serial position and semantic category of unseen items. During memory recall, these models uniquely link reinstatement of temporal context and semantic content to these posterior and anterior networks, respectively. These findings demonstrate how specialized cortical systems enable the human brain to target specific memories.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4444
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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