The hippocampus constructs narrative memories across distant events

Brendan I. Cohn-Sheehy, Angelique I. Delarazan, Zachariah M. Reagh, Jordan E. Crivelli-Decker, Kamin Kim, Alexander J. Barnett, Jeffrey M. Zacks, Charan Ranganath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Life's events are scattered throughout time, yet we often recall different events in the context of an integrated narrative. Prior research suggests that the hippocampus, which supports memory for past events, can support the integration of overlapping associations or separate events in memory. However, the conditions that lead to hippocampus-dependent memory integration are unclear. We used functional brain imaging to test whether the opportunity to form a larger narrative (narrative coherence) drives hippocampal memory integration. During encoding of fictional stories, patterns of hippocampal activity, including activity at boundaries between events, were more similar between distant events that formed one coherent narrative, compared with overlapping events taken from unrelated narratives. One day later, the hippocampus preferentially supported detailed recall of coherent narrative events, through reinstatement of hippocampal activity patterns from encoding. These findings demonstrate a key function of the hippocampus: the integration of events into a narrative structure for memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4935-4945.e7
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number22
StatePublished - Nov 22 2021


  • episodic memory
  • event cognition
  • fMRI
  • hippocampus
  • narratives
  • naturalistic stimuli
  • pattern similarity


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