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Insight reconfigures hippocampal-prefrontal memories

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Milivojevic, B., Vicente-Grabovetsky, A., & Doeller, C. F. (2015). Insight reconfigures hippocampal-prefrontal memories. Current Biology, 25(7), 821-830. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2015.01.033.

Our memories are remarkably dynamic and allow us to reinterpret the past once new information comes to light. Gaining novel insights can lead to mental reorganization of previously unrelated events, thus linking them into narratives. The hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) support integration of partially overlapping events, but the neural mechanisms underlying the reorganization of memories for the formation of coherent narratives remain elusive. Here, we combine fMRI with The Sims 3 videos of life-like animated events, which could either be integrated into narratives or not. We show that insight triggers the emergence of de novo mnemonic representations of the narratives and is associated with increased neural similarity between linked event representations in the posterior hippocampus, mPFC, and autobiographical-memory network. Simultaneously, events irrelevant to the newly established memory of the narrative were pruned out. This process was accompanied by increased neural dissimilarity between non-linked event representations in the posterior hippocampus and mPFC and was additionally signaled by a mismatch response in the anterior hippocampus. Our results demonstrate that insight leads to neural reconfiguration of representational networks within a memory space and have implications for knowledge acquisition in educational settings.