A unified framework for the functional organization of the medial temporal lobes and the phenomenology of episodic memory

Hippocampus. 2010 Nov;20(11):1263-90. doi: 10.1002/hipo.20852.


There is currently an intense debate about the nature of recognition memory and about the roles of medial temporal lobe subregions in recognition memory processes. At a larger level, this debate has been about whether it is appropriate to propose unified theories to explain memory at neural, functional, and phenomenological levels of analysis. Here, I review findings from physiology, functional imaging, and lesion studies in humans, monkeys, and rodents relevant to the roles of medial temporal lobe subregions in recognition memory, as well as in short-term memory and perception. The results from these studies are consistent with the idea that there is functional heterogeneity in the medial temporal lobes, although the differences among medial temporal lobe subregions do not precisely correspond to different types of memory tasks, cognitive processes, or states of awareness. Instead, the evidence is consistent with the idea that medial temporal lobe subregions differ in terms of the kind of information they process and represent, and that these regions collectively support episodic memory by binding item and context information.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Discrimination, Psychological*
  • Hippocampus / blood supply
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Temporal Lobe / anatomy & histology*
  • Temporal Lobe / blood supply
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*


  • Oxygen