Categorization in the monkey hippocampus: a possible mechanism for encoding information into memory

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Mar 2;101(9):3184-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0400162101. Epub 2004 Feb 20.


The mammalian hippocampus processes sensory information into memory. The neurobiological basis of this representation, as well as the type of information that is encoded, is central to understanding how memories are formed. Normally, there is an infinite amount of information that could be encoded for any given stimulus. Thus, the question arises as to how the hippocampus selects and encodes features of a given stimulus. Here, we show that neurons in the hippocampus of the monkey appear to categorize types of visual stimuli presented in a delayed-match-to-sample memory task. By extracting unique combinations of features, these category cells are able to encode aspects of behaviorally important images instead of encoding all visual details. The subject is then able to rapidly select an appropriate response to that stimulus when distracting stimuli are presented simultaneously, thereby facilitating performance. Moreover, across animals, this specific type of encoding differed considerably. Just as in humans, different monkeys attended to and selected different aspects of the same stimulus image, most likely reflecting different histories, strategies, and expectations residing within individual hippocampal networks.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Hand
  • Hippocampus / cytology*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Motor Activity
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology*