Remembering the past and imagining the future: a neural model of spatial memory and imagery

Psychol Rev. 2007 Apr;114(2):340-75. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.114.2.340.


The authors model the neural mechanisms underlying spatial cognition, integrating neuronal systems and behavioral data, and address the relationships between long-term memory, short-term memory, and imagery, and between egocentric and allocentric and visual and ideothetic representations. Long-term spatial memory is modeled as attractor dynamics within medial-temporal allocentric representations, and short-term memory is modeled as egocentric parietal representations driven by perception, retrieval, and imagery and modulated by directed attention. Both encoding and retrieval/imagery require translation between egocentric and allocentric representations, which are mediated by posterior parietal and retrosplenial areas and the use of head direction representations in Papez's circuit. Thus, the hippocampus effectively indexes information by real or imagined location, whereas Papez's circuit translates to imagery or from perception according to the direction of view. Modulation of this translation by motor efference allows spatial updating of representations, whereas prefrontal simulated motor efference allows mental exploration. The alternating temporal-parietal flows of information are organized by the theta rhythm. Simulations demonstrate the retrieval and updating of familiar spatial scenes, hemispatial neglect in memory, and the effects on hippocampal place cell firing of lesioned head direction representations and of conflicting visual and ideothetic inputs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Imagination*
  • Memory*
  • Models, Psychological
  • Space Perception*
  • Time Perception*