Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Much of what we need to remember consists of sequences of stimuli, experiences, or events. Repeated presentation of a specific sequence establishes a more stable long-term memory, as shown by increased recall accuracy over successive trials of an STM task. Here we used fMRI to study the neural mechanisms that underlie sequence learning in the auditory–verbal domain. Specifically, we track the emergence of neural representations of sequences over the course of learning using multivariate pattern analysis. For this purpose, we use a serial recall task, in which participants have to recall overlapping sequences of letter names, with some of those sequences being repeated and hence learned over the course of the experiment. We show that voxels in the hippocampus come to encode the identity of specific repeated sequences although the letter names were common to all sequences in the experiment. These changes could have not been caused by changes in overall level of activity or to fMRI signal-to-noise ratios. Hence, the present results go beyond conventional univariate fMRI methods in showing a critical contribution of medial-temporal lobe memory systems to establishing long-term representations of verbal sequences.