Pattern separation underpins expectation-modulated memory

Frank, Darya; Montemurro, Marcelo A. and Montaldi, Daniela (2020). Pattern separation underpins expectation-modulated memory. Journal of Neuroscience, 40(17) pp. 3455–3464.



Pattern separation and completion are fundamental hippocampal computations supporting memory encoding and retrieval. However, despite extensive exploration of these processes, it remains unclear whether and how top-down processes adaptively modulate the dynamics between these computations. Here we examine the role of expectation in shifting the hippocampus to perform pattern separation. In a behavioral task, 29 participants (7 males) learned a cue-object category contingency. Then, at encoding, one-third of the cues preceding the to-be-memorized objects, violated the studied rule. At test, participants performed a recognition task with old objects (targets) and a set of parametrically manipulated (very similar to dissimilar) foils for each object. Accuracy was found to be better for foils of high similarity to targets that were contextually unexpected at encoding compared with expected ones. Critically, there were no expectation-driven differences for targets and low similarity foils. To further explore these effects, we implemented a computational model of the hippocampus, performing the same task as the human participants. We used representational similarity analysis to examine how top-down expectation interacts with bottom-up perceptual input, in each layer. All subfields showed more dissimilar representations for unexpected items, with dentate gyrus (DG) and CA3 being more sensitive to expectation violation than CA1. Again, representational differences between expected and unexpected inputs were prominent for moderate to high levels of input similarity. This effect diminished when inputs from DG and CA3 into CA1 were lesioned. Overall, these novel findings strongly suggest that pattern separation in DG/CA3 underlies the effect that violation of expectation exerts on memory.

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