Institution: Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305, USA
While memory and imagination exist as rhetorically distinct cognitive phenomena, ongoing bodies of research increasingly converge around a unified architecture that provides a common basis for memory and imagination. Specifically, recent research leveraging photon microscopy and optogenetics have demonstrated the sufficiency of neural circuits—or ensembles—for the construction of perceptual states. When merged with the robust bodies of work investigating the engram circuit as the brain’s mnemonic store, and cortico-temporal networks as the mechanism for reactivating and reinstating stored representations, the result is a unified conceptual understanding of how neural imagery and simulations are constructed. This constitutes an updating and integration of previous theories concerning the indexing, recall, and reinstatement of stored representations, and their remixing and recombination as imagined simulations. The present goal is to review the respective literature and proffer the base theoretical framework upon which cognitive imagery is built.
Keywords: Memory; Imagination; Engram Circuit; Optogenetics; Hippocampus; Prefrontal Cortex