Event segmentation is a spontaneous part of perception, important for processing continuous information and organizing it into memory. Although neural and behavioral event segmentation show a degree of inter-subject consistency, meaningful individual variability exists atop these shared patterns. Here we characterized individual differences in the location of neural event boundaries across four short movies that evoked variable interpretations. Event boundary alignment across subjects followed a posterior-to-anterior gradient that was tightly correlated with the rate of segmentation: slower-segmenting regions that integrate information over longer time periods showed more individual variability in boundary locations. This relationship held irrespective of the stimulus, but the degree to which boundaries in particular regions were shared versus idiosyncratic depended on certain aspects of movie content. Furthermore, this variability was behaviorally significant in that similarity of neural boundary locations during movie-watching predicted similarity in how the movie was ultimately remembered and appraised. In particular, we identified a subset of regions in which neural boundary locations are both aligned with behavioral boundaries during encoding and predictive of stimulus interpretation, suggesting that event segmentation may be a mechanism by which narratives generate variable memories and appraisals of stimuli.
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Convergent processing of the world may be a factor that contributes to social connectedness. We use neuroimaging and network analysis to investigate the association between the social-network position (as measured by in-degree centrality) of first-year university students and their neural similarity while watching naturalistic audio-visual stimuli (specifically, videos). There were 119 students in the social-network study; 63 of them participated in the neuroimaging study. We show that more central individuals had similar neural responses to their peers and to each other in brain regions that are associated with high-level interpretations and social cognition (e.g., in the default mode network), whereas less-central individuals exhibited more variable responses. Self-reported enjoyment of and interest in stimuli followed a similar pattern, but accounting for these data did not change our main results. These findings show that neural processing of external stimuli is similar in highly-central individuals but is idiosyncratic in less-central individuals.
As we comprehend narratives, our attentional engagement fluctuates over time. Despite theoretical conceptions of narrative engagement as emotion-laden attention, little empirical work has characterized the cognitive and neural processes that comprise subjective engagement in naturalistic contexts or its consequences for memory. Here, we relate fluctuations in narrative engagement to patterns of brain coactivation and test whether neural signatures of engagement predict subsequent memory. In behavioral studies, participants continuously rated how engaged they were as they watched a television episode or listened to a story. Self-reported engagement was synchronized across individuals and driven by the emotional content of the narratives. In functional MRI datasets collected as different individuals watched the same show or listened to the same story, engagement drove neural synchrony, such that default mode network activity was more synchronized across individuals during more engaging moments of the narratives. Furthermore, models based on time-varying functional brain connectivity predicted evolving states of engagement across participants and independent datasets. The functional connections that predicted engagement overlapped with a validated neuromarker of sustained attention and predicted recall of narrative events. Together, our findings characterize the neural signatures of attentional engagement in naturalistic contexts and elucidate relationships among narrative engagement, sustained attention, and eventmore »
The ability to sustain attention differs across people and changes within a single person over time. Although recent work has demonstrated that patterns of functional brain connectivity predict individual differences in sustained attention, whether these same patterns capture fluctuations in attention within individuals remains unclear. Here, across five independent studies, we demonstrate that the sustained attention connectome-based predictive model (CPM), a validated model of sustained attention function, generalizes to predict attentional state from data collected across minutes, days, weeks, and months. Furthermore, the sustained attention CPM is sensitive to within-subject state changes induced by propofol as well as sevoflurane, such that individuals show functional connectivity signatures of stronger attentional states when awake than when under deep sedation and light anesthesia. Together, these results demonstrate that fluctuations in attentional state reflect variability in the same functional connectivity patterns that predict individual differences in sustained attention.