Representation of retrieval confidence by single neurons in the human medial temporal lobe

Nat Neurosci. 2015 Jul;18(7):1041-50. doi: 10.1038/nn.4041. Epub 2015 Jun 8.


Memory-based decisions are often accompanied by an assessment of choice certainty, but the mechanisms of such confidence judgments remain unknown. We studied the response of 1,065 individual neurons in the human hippocampus and amygdala while neurosurgical patients made memory retrieval decisions together with a confidence judgment. Combining behavioral, neuronal and computational analysis, we identified a population of memory-selective (MS) neurons whose activity signaled stimulus familiarity and confidence, as assessed by subjective report. In contrast, the activity of visually selective (VS) neurons was not sensitive to memory strength. The groups further differed in response latency, tuning and extracellular waveforms. The information provided by MS neurons was sufficient for a race model to decide stimulus familiarity and retrieval confidence. Together, our results indicate a trial-by-trial relationship between a specific group of neurons and declared memory strength in humans. We suggest that VS and MS neurons are a substrate for declarative memories.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Amygdala / cytology
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / cytology
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*