Temporal-pattern similarity analysis reveals the beneficial and detrimental effects of context reinstatement on human memory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Konstanz
  • University of Munich
  • Department of Psychology - Zukunftskolleg


A powerful force in human memory is the context in which memories are encoded (Tulving and Thomson, 1973). Several studies suggest that the reinstatement of neural encoding patterns is beneficial for memory retrieval (Manning et al., 2011; Staresina et al., 2012; Jafarpour et al., 2014). However, reinstatement of the original encoding context is not always helpful, for instance, when retrieving a memory in a different contextual situation(Smith and Vela, 2001). It is an open question whether such context-dependent memory effects can be captured by the reinstatement of neural patterns. We investigated this question by applying temporal and spatial pattern similarity analysis in MEG and intracranial EEG in a context-match paradigm. Items (words) were tagged by individual dynamic context stimuli (movies). The results show that beta oscillatory phase in visual regions and the parahippocampal cortex tracks the incidental reinstatement of individual context trajectories on a single-trial level. Crucially, memory benefitted from reinstatement when the encoding and retrieval contexts matched but suffered from reinstatement when the contexts did not match.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5373-5384
Number of pages12
JournalThe Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015


  • Episodic memory, Intracranial EEG, MEG, Oscillations

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