Our past, present, and future are intimately linked by our memories.
Scientists know now that the same brain processes we use to remember the past, also help us plan for the future and imagine different possible scenarios.
One of the essential functions of the hippocampus may be the ability to integrate or “bind” different elements.
So when we need to integrate information together – whether different features of a perceived object, disparate elements into a creative idea, two landmarks across town, or episodic memory details into an imagined scenario – the hippocampus makes an important contribution to making these links.
Addis: Recent research has shown that episodic memory – our memory for past personal experiences – does more than simply allow us to remember our pasts.
It also appears to be intimately linked to our ability to imagine our futures.
Addis: I am most excited to be presenting some of our latest findings at CNS.
This includes some recent work exploring changes in the ability to imagine the future in depression.
This similarity suggests that when imagining, we draw on many of the same processes required when we remember (such as, for instance, mental imagery) as well as recalling details from memory to aid in the imagination process.
Second, studies on individuals with some degree of memory loss (from healthy older adults to people with Alzheimer’s disease and amnesia) have revealed that when access to episodic memory details is compromised, there is a corresponding loss of details in the future events they imagine.