Contextual Expectations Shape Cortical Reinstatement of Sensory Representations.


When making a turn at a familiar intersection, we know what items and landmarks will come into view. These perceptual expectations, or predictions, come from our knowledge of the context; however, it is unclear how memory and perceptual systems interact to support the prediction and reactivation of sensory details in cortex. To address this, human participants learned the spatial layout of animals positioned in a cross maze. During fMRI, participants of both sexes navigated between animals to reach a target, and in the process saw a predictable sequence of five animal images. Critically, to isolate activity patterns related to item predictions, rather than bottom-up inputs, one-fourth of trials ended early, with a blank screen presented instead. Using multivariate pattern similarity analysis, we reveal that activity patterns in early visual cortex, posterior medial regions, and the posterior hippocampus showed greater similarity when seeing the same item compared with different items. Further, item effects in posterior hippocampus were specific to the sequence context. Critically, activity patterns associated with seeing an item in visual cortex and posterior medial cortex, were also related to activity patterns when an item was expected, but omitted, suggesting sequence predictions were reinstated in these regions. Finally, multivariate connectivity showed that patterns in the posterior hippocampus at one position in the sequence were related to patterns in early visual cortex and posterior medial cortex at a later position. Together, our results support the idea that hippocampal representations facilitate sensory processing by modulating visual cortical activity in anticipation of expected items.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Our visual world is a series of connected events, where we can predict what we might see next based on our recent past. Understanding the neural circuitry and mechanisms of the perceptual and memory systems that support these expectations is fundamental to revealing how we perceive and act in our world. Using brain imaging, we studied what happens when we expect to see specific visual items, and how such expectations relate to top-down memory signals. We find both visual and memory systems reflect item predictions, and moreover, we show that hippocampal activity supports predictions of future expected items. This demonstrates that the hippocampus acts to predict upcoming items, and reinstates such predictions in cortex.