Jainta et al. (2022)

Jainta, B., Siestrup, S., El-Sourani, N., Trempler, I., Wurm, M. F., Werning, M., Cheng, S., & Schubotz, R. I. (2022) Seeing what i did (not): Cerebral and behavioral effects of agency and perspective on episodic memory re-activation. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 15:793115. doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2021.793115

Intuitively, we assume that we remember episodes better when we actively participated in them and were not mere observers. Independently of this, we can recall episodes from either the first-person perspective (1pp) or the third-person perspective (3pp). In this functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study, we tested whether agency and perspective modulate neural activity during memory retrieval and subsequently enhance memory performance. Subjects encoded a set of different episodes by either imitating or only observing videos that showed short toy stories. A week later, we conducted fMRI and cued episodic retrieval by presenting the original videos, or slightly modified versions thereof, from 1pp or from 3pp. The hippocampal formation was sensitive to self- performed vs. only observed actions only when there was an episodic mismatch. In a post-fMRI memory test a history of self-performance did not improve behavioral memory performance. However, modified videos were often (falsely) accepted as showing truly experienced episodes when: (i) they were already presented in this modified version during fMRI or (ii) they were presented in their original form during fMRI but from 3pp. While the overall effect of modification was strong, the effects of perspective and agency were more subtle. Together, our findings demonstrate that self-performance and self-perspective modulate the strength of a memory trace in different ways. Even when memory performance remains the same for different agentive states, the brain is capable of detecting mismatching information. Re-experiencing the latter impairs memory

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