The operation of pattern separation and pattern completion processes associated with different attributes or domains of memory

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2013 Jan;37(1):36-58. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2012.09.014. Epub 2012 Oct 5.


Pattern separation and pattern completion processes are central to how the brain processes information in an efficient manner. Research into these processes is escalating and deficient pattern separation is being implicated in a wide array of genetic disorders as well as in neurocognitive aging. Despite the quantity of research, there remains a controversy as to precisely which behavioral paradigms should be used to best tap into pattern separation and pattern completion processes, as well as to what constitute legitimate outcome measures reflecting impairments in pattern separation and pattern completion. This review will discuss a theory based on multiple memory systems that provides a framework upon which behavioral tasks can be designed and their results interpreted. Furthermore, this review will discuss the nature of pattern separation and pattern completion and extend these processes outside the hippocampus and across all domains of information processing. After these discussions, an optimal strategy for designing behavioral paradigms to evaluate pattern separation and pattern completion processes will be provided.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Pattern Recognition, Physiological / physiology*
  • Perception / physiology*