As time goes by: hippocampal connectivity changes with remoteness of autobiographical memory retrieval

Hippocampus. 2012 Apr;22(4):670-9. doi: 10.1002/hipo.20927. Epub 2011 Mar 14.


The hippocampus is crucial for episodic autobiographical memory retrieval. Functional neuroimaging evidence suggests that it is similarly engaged in recent and remote retrieval when memories are matched on vividness and personal importance. Far fewer studies have investigated the nature of hippocampal-neocortical coactivation in relation to memory remoteness. The purpose of this study was to examine hippocampal activity and functional connectivity as a function of memory age. Unlike most studies of autobiographical memory, we included autobiographical memories formed in the days and weeks before scanning, in addition to truly remote memories on the order of months and years. Like previous studies, we found that the hippocampus was active bilaterally regardless of memory age, with anterior activity increasing up to 1 yr and then decreasing, and with posterior activity being less sensitive to memory age. More importantly, hippocampal functional connectivity varied with memory age. Retrieving recent memories (≤1 yr) showed a late coactivation of the hippocampus and areas of the autobiographical memory network, whereas retrieving remote memories (10 yrs) showed an early negative coactivation of the hippocampus and left inferior frontal gyrus followed by a positive coactivation with anterior cingulate. This finding may reflect that the hippocampus is more strongly integrated with the autobiographical memory network for recent than for remote memories, and that more effort is required to recover remote memories.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Functional Neuroimaging
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Time Factors