Vision fMRI Journal Club

The hippocampus extrapolates beyond the view in scenes: An fMRI study of boundary extension. Authors: Chadwick, M.J., Mullally, S.L., & Maguire, E.A.

Boundary extension (BE) is a pervasive phenomenon whereby people remember seeing more of a scene than was present in the physical input, because they extrapolate beyond the borders of the original stimulus. This automatic embedding of a scene into a wider context supports our experience of a continuous and coherent world, and is therefore highly adaptive. BE, whilst occurring rapidly, is nevertheless thought to comprise two stages. The first involves the active extrapolation of the scene beyond its physical boundaries, and is constructive in nature. The second phase occurs at retrieval, where the initial extrapolation beyond the original scene borders is revealed by a subsequent memory error. The brain regions associated with the initial, and crucial, extrapolation of a scene beyond the view have never been investigated. Here, using functional MRI (fMRI) and a classic BE paradigm, we found that this extrapolation of scenes occurred rapidly around the time a scene was first viewed, and was associated with engagement of the hippocampus (HC) and parahippocampal cortex (PHC). Using connectivity analyses we determined that the HC in particular seemed to drive the BE effect, exerting top-down influence on PHC and indeed as far back down the processing stream as early visual cortex (VC). These cortical regions subsequently displayed activity profiles that tracked the trial-by-trial subjective perception of the scenes, rather than physical reality, thereby reflecting the behavioural expression of the BE error. Together our results show that the HC is involved in the active extrapolation of scenes beyond their physical borders. This information is then automatically and rapidly channelled through the scene processing hierarchy as far back as early VC. This suggests that the anticipation and construction of scenes is a pervasive and important aspect of our online perception, with the HC playing a central role.