You are now starting to read this page of text. You read all words continuously, and try to understand what it is that we are trying to tell you. But although you may read the text continuously, your brain processes what you read by chunking it into small meaningful units, termed “events”. This chunking happens, for example, at the ends of paragraphs.
In fact, your brain chunks the ongoing stream of information transmitted by your senses into discrete events when processing any continuous experience: when watching a movie, having a conversation or just going about your daily life.
But for you to understand ongoing experiences, such as this text, these small chunks of information must be linked to one another in a meaningful way, which isn’t necessarily the order in which they originally appeared. For example, the paragraph you are reading right now, and explains the need for binding events, can only be understood in relation to the first paragraph, which explained what events are. The second paragraph, which is closer to the current one, is actually not that important. So how will your brain bind the more remote first paragraph to the current paragraph?
In a recently published study, the HFSP Fellow Avital Hahamy analyzed the brain activity of people watching a movie or listening to a story. The researcher found that at the end of events, specific areas of the brain rapidly “replay” all past events that are needed for understanding each current event. This means that, when we finish describing our findings at the end of this paragraph, your brain will probably replay all relevant paragraphs, in order to link the relevant pieces of information into a narrative you can comprehend.
Avital Hahamy was awarded a Long Term Fellowship in 2018 to study “Brain representations as distributed processes: from neural code to behavior”. The scientist highlighted the support of HFSP in her research: “This work could not have been accomplished without the generous support of the HFSP, who encouraged a daring research plan, accommodated its evolution imposed by the COVID19 pandemic and most sensitively supported me as a young mother to led this work”.