The researchers found that when the participant’s brain activity revealed that they had retrieved a memory with “high fidelity,” their next response was likely to be the next item on the list — suggesting that they also recalled the detail around the object. But when they did not recall the item with high fidelity, the next item was often not the next one on the list, which suggests that the information was recalled in isolation.
“This demonstrates that the brain stamps memories with a temporal code,” Polyn said in the statement. “These time-travel recollections allow the brain to retrieve that temporal code, which makes memories for nearby things more accessible, in this case the next item in the list.”
Understanding what’s happening in different brain regions when we’re searching for memories may have some important implications for the study of memory-related disorders like Alzheimer’s.