The Hippocampus and the Neural Basis of Contextual Memory.
Abstract: The background environment, or context, plays a profound role in memory. Studies from cognitive psychology have shown that contextual information is a potent retrieval cue and can be important for preventing interference. In addition to its well-known roles in spatial cognition and episodic memory, the hippocampus is critical for contextual memory processes. We have conducted a series of neurophysiological experiments in rodents aimed at understanding how contextual information is encoded in the hippocampus and how hippocampal context representations might support memory retrieval. We have found that the hippocampus generates unique patterns of neural activity for each context a subject encounters and the output of these large-scale activity patterns is correlated with the successful retrieval of odor memories. Based on these findings, I will present a mechanistic account of context-based memory retrieval.