Discovering Event Structure in Continuous Narrative Perception and Memory

Christopher Baldassano, Janice Chen, Asieh Zadbood, Jonathan William Pillow, Uri Hasson, Kenneth Andrew Norman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

412 Scopus citations


During realistic, continuous perception, humans automatically segment experiences into discrete events. Using a novel model of cortical event dynamics, we investigate how cortical structures generate event representations during narrative perception and how these events are stored to and retrieved from memory. Our data-driven approach allows us to detect event boundaries as shifts between stable patterns of brain activity without relying on stimulus annotations and reveals a nested hierarchy from short events in sensory regions to long events in high-order areas (including angular gyrus and posterior medial cortex), which represent abstract, multimodal situation models. High-order event boundaries are coupled to increases in hippocampal activity, which predict pattern reinstatement during later free recall. These areas also show evidence of anticipatory reinstatement as subjects listen to a familiar narrative. Based on these results, we propose that brain activity is naturally structured into nested events, which form the basis of long-term memory representations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)709-721.e5
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


  • Hidden Markov Model
  • event model
  • event segmentation
  • fMRI
  • hippocampus
  • memory
  • narrative
  • perception
  • recall
  • reinstatement
  • situation model


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