Factors affecting the hippocampal BOLD response during spatial memory

Behav Brain Res. 2008 Mar 5;187(2):433-41. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2007.10.014. Epub 2007 Oct 22.


The hippocampus has long been implicated in spatial memory, from work in rodents to imaging and brain lesion studies in humans. However, recent evidence has pointed to the recruitment of areas outside the hippocampus proper on spatial memory tasks, including the parahippocampal gyrus and precuneus, possibly suggesting a more focused role for the hippocampus proper. In this study, a virtual version of the standard rodent spatial memory assessment, the Morris water task, has been employed during fMRI to investigate the differential involvement of these distinct brain areas. Twenty-eight healthy participants completed a block designed version of the virtual Morris water task (vMWT) which consisted of three conditions: (1) a hippocampal dependent condition during which the participants were forced to use distal room cues in the virtual environment to navigate to a hidden platform; (2) a non-hippocampal dependent condition during which participants were to navigate to a visible platform; (3) a fixation period. Activations of the BOLD signal were evident in the hidden condition as compared to the visible condition in the parahippocampal gyrus, precuneus, and fusiform when analyzed using to a blocked analysis. Moreover, this blocked analysis revealed increases in the right hippocampal BOLD signal during fixation. However, when hidden trials were compared to visible trials using a post hoc event-related analysis focused on the beginning of each trial, activations of the right hippocampus are evident. These results support the theory that extra-hippocampal structures contribute to spatial memory behavior and identify a temporally specific involvement of the hippocampus. Furthermore, they substantiate previous results reporting hippocampal BOLD increases during fixation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation
  • Discrimination Learning / physiology
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Hippocampus / blood supply
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / physiology*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Spatial Behavior / physiology*


  • Oxygen