The hippocampus is proposed to switch between memory encoding and retrieval by continually computing the overlap between what is expected and what is encountered. Central to this hypothesis is that area CA1 performs this calculation. However, empirical evidence for this is lacking. To test the theoretical role of area CA1 in match/mismatch detection, we had subjects study complex stimuli and then, during high-resolution fMRI scanning, make memory judgments about probes that either matched or mismatched expectations. More than any other hippocampal subfield, area CA1 displayed responses consistent with a match/mismatch detector. Specifically, the responses in area CA1 tracked the total number of changes present in the probe. Additionally, area CA1 was sensitive to both behaviorally relevant and irrelevant changes, a key feature of an automatic comparator. These results are consistent with, and provide the first evidence in humans for, the theoretically important role of area CA1 as a match/mismatch detector.
Copyright © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.