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  1. To fluidly engage with the world, our brains must simultaneously represent both the scene in front of us and our memory of the immediate surrounding environment (i.e., local visuospatial context). How does the brain's functional architecture enable sensory and mnemonic representations to closely interface while also avoiding sensory-mnemonic interference? Here, we asked this question using first-person, head-mounted virtual reality and fMRI. Using virtual reality, human participants of both sexes learned a set of immersive, real-world visuospatial environments in which we systematically manipulated the extent of visuospatial context associated with a scene image in memory across three learning conditions, spanning from a single FOV to a city street. We used individualized, within-subject fMRI to determine which brain areas support memory of the visuospatial context associated with a scene during recall (Experiment 1) and recognition (Experiment 2). Across the whole brain, activity in three patches of cortex was modulated by the amount of known visuospatial context, each located immediately anterior to one of the three scene perception areas of high-level visual cortex. Individual subject analyses revealed that these anterior patches corresponded to three functionally defined place memory areas, which selectively respond when visually recalling personally familiar places. In addition to showing activity levels that were modulated by the amount of visuospatial context, multivariate analyses showed that these anterior areas represented the identity of the specific environment being recalled. Together, these results suggest a convergence zone for scene perception and memory of the local visuospatial context at the anterior edge of high-level visual cortex.

    SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTAs we move through the world, the visual scene around us is integrated with our memory of the wider visuospatial context. Here, we sought to understand how the functional architecture of the brain enables coexisting representations of the current visual scene and memory of the surrounding environment. Using a combination of immersive virtual reality and fMRI, we show that memory of visuospatial context outside the current FOV is represented in a distinct set of brain areas immediately anterior and adjacent to the perceptually oriented scene-selective areas of high-level visual cortex. This functional architecture would allow efficient interaction between immediately adjacent mnemonic and perceptual areas while also minimizing interference between mnemonic and perceptual representations.

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