Shared memories reveal shared structure in neural activity across individuals
Our lives revolve around sharing experiences and memories with others. When different people recount the same events, how similar are their underlying neural representations? Participants viewed a 50-min movie, then verbally described the events during functional MRI, producing unguided detailed descriptions lasting up to 40 min. As each person spoke, event-specific spatial patterns were reinstated in default-network, medial-temporal, and high-level visual areas. Individual event patterns were both highly discriminable from one another and similar among people, suggesting consistent spatial organization. In many high-order areas, patterns were more similar between people recalling the same event than between recall and perception, indicating systematic reshaping of percept into memory. These results reveal the existence of a common spatial organization for memories in high-level cortical areas, where encoded information is largely abstracted beyond sensory constraints, and that neural patterns during perception are altered systematically across people into shared memory representations for real-life events.