A theory of multiple parallel memory systems in the brain of the rat is described. Each system consists of a series of interconnected neural structures. The "central structures" of the three systems described are the hippocampus, the matrix compartment of the dorsal striatum (caudate-putamen), and the amygdala. Information, coded as neural signals, flows independently through each system. All systems have access to the same information from situations in which learning occurs, but each system is specialized to represent a different kind of relationship among the elements (stimulus events, responses, reinforcers) of the information that flows through it. The speed and accuracy with which a system forms a coherent representation of a learning situation depend on the correspondence between the specialization of the system and the relationship among the elements of the situation. The coherence of these stored representations determines the degree of control exerted by each system on behavior in the situation. Although they process information independently the systems interact in at least two ways: by simultaneous parallel influence on behavioral output and by directly influencing each other. These interactions can be cooperative (leading to similar behaviors) or competitive (leading to different behaviors). Experimental findings consistent with these ideas, mostly from experiments with rats, are reviewed.
Copyright 2002 Elsevier Science (USA).