Prospective and retrospective memory coding in the hippocampus

Neuron. 2003 Dec 18;40(6):1227-39. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(03)00752-9.


The effect of memory on hippocampal neuronal activity was assessed as rats performed a spatial task that was impaired by fornix lesions. The influences of current location, recently entered places, and places about to be entered were compared. Three new findings emerged. (1) Current, retrospective, and prospective coding were common and recorded simultaneously in neural ensembles. (2) The origin of journeys influenced firing even when rats made detours, showing that recent memory could modulate neuronal activity more than spatial trajectory. (3) Diminished retrospective coding and, more markedly, reduced prospective coding in error trials suggested that the neuronal signal was important for task performance. The population of hippocampal neurons thus encoded information about the recent past, the present, and the imminent future, consistent with a neuronal mechanism for episodic memory.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Spatial Behavior / physiology