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  Creating memories of the affective future: Ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the facilitation of prior knowledge

Benoit, R. G., Szpunar, K. K., & Schacter, D. L. (2014). Creating memories of the affective future: Ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the facilitation of prior knowledge. Poster presented at Neuroscience 2014, Washington, DC.

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 Creators:
Benoit, Roland G.1, Author              
Szpunar, K. K.1, Author
Schacter, D. L.1, Author
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1External Organizations, ou_persistent22              

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 Abstract: A potent way to plan for the future is to imagine possible prospective episodes and their associated affective states. This study examined the possible role of ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) in supporting such episodic simulations and their retention in long-term memory. Specifically, we tested the hypothesis that this region would effectively integrate prior knowledge of familiar elements of an episode to process the episode’s anticipated affective quality. This integration may then also foster memory for the simulations, which would make them available for guiding decisions at later time points. To test this account, participants first provided 200 people and places that they personally knew and rated the familiarity and pleasantness of each of those. In the fMRI scanner, they were then presented with pseudo-random person/place pairings and simulated interacting with the given person at the respective place. Afterwards, they were prompted to recall the simulations before they indicated the anticipated pleasantness of each episode. The results are consistent with the hypothesized role of vmPFC in integrating prior knowledge: vmPFC was more strongly coupled with regions preferentially involved in simulating either people or places to the degree that the respective element was more familiar. Moreover, participants recalled a greater number of simulations that were comprised of more familiar elements, and those that showed a greater mnemonic benefit of prior knowledge had exhibited a stronger familiarity-dependent coupling during the preceding simulations. Integrative processes supported by vmPFC may thus have augmented memory formation. Finally, vmPFC activation tracked the anticipated pleasantness of the episodes. This was the case even when controlling for the pleasantness of the constituting elements, indicating that this region processes the emergent affective quality of a simulated episode. Together, the data suggest a key role for vmPFC in facilitating knowledge structures that support the simulation and retention of future affective episodes. This region thus contributes to the adaptive value of episodic future simulations.

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 Dates: 2014-11-17
 Publication Status: Not specified
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Title: Neuroscience 2014
Place of Event: Washington, DC
Start-/End Date: 2014-11-15 - 2014-11-19

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