A role for the fornix in temporal sequence memory

Marie‐Lucie Read, Katja Umla‐Runge, Andrew D. Lawrence, Alison G. Costigan, Liang‐tien Hsieh, Maxime Chamberland, Charan Ranganath, Kim S. Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Converging evidence from studies of human and nonhuman animals suggests that the hippocampus contributes to sequence learning by using temporal context to bind sequentially occurring items. The fornix is a white matter pathway containing the major input and output pathways of the hippocampus, including projections from medial septum and to diencephalon, striatum, lateral septum and prefrontal cortex. If the fornix meaningfully contributes to hippocampal function, then individual differences in fornix microstructure might predict sequence memory. Here, we tested this prediction by performing tractography in 51 healthy adults who had undertaken a sequence memory task. Microstructure properties of the fornix were compared with those of tracts connecting medial temporal lobe regions but not predominantly the hippocampus: the Parahippocampal Cingulum bundle (PHC) (conveying retrosplenial projections to parahippocampal cortex) and the Inferior Longitudinal Fasciculus (ILF) (conveying occipital projections to perirhinal cortex). Using principal components analysis, we combined Free-Water Elimination Diffusion Tensor Imaging and Neurite Orientation Dispersion and Density Imaging measures obtained from multi-shell diffusion MRI into two informative indices: the first (PC1) capturing axonal packing/myelin and the second (PC2) capturing microstructural complexity. We found a significant correlation between fornix PC2 and implicit reaction-time indices of sequence memory, indicating that greater fornix microstructural complexity is associated with better sequence memory. No such relationship was found with measures from the PHC and ILF. This study highlights the importance of the fornix in aiding memory for objects within a temporal context, potentially reflecting a role in mediating inter-regional communication within an extended hippocampal system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1141-1160
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number7
Early online date17 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • diffusion MRI
  • episodic memory
  • fornix
  • hippocampus
  • sequence
  • time


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