A new study from a Washington University researcher offers fresh insights into how the brain goes to great lengths to process and remember everyday events.
Zachariah Reagh, PhD, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, and co-author Charan Ranganath of the University of California, Davis, used functional MRI scanners to monitor the brains of subjects watching short videos of scenes that could have come from real life. These included men and women working on laptops in a cafe or shopping in a grocery store.
“They were very ordinary scenes,” Reagh said. “No car chases or anything.”
The research subjects then immediately described the scenes with as much detail as they could muster. The mundane snippets led to intriguing findings, including that different parts of the brain worked together to understand and remember a situation.
Networks in the front part of the temporal lobe, a region of the brain long known to play an important role in memory, focused on the subject regardless of their surroundings. But the posterior medial network, which involves the parietal lobe toward the back of the brain, paid more attention to the environment. Those networks then sent information to the hippocampus, Reagh explained, which combined the signals to create a cohesive scene.