Hippocampal sharp wave-ripple: A cognitive biomarker for episodic memory and planning

Hippocampus. 2015 Oct;25(10):1073-188. doi: 10.1002/hipo.22488.


Sharp wave ripples (SPW-Rs) represent the most synchronous population pattern in the mammalian brain. Their excitatory output affects a wide area of the cortex and several subcortical nuclei. SPW-Rs occur during "off-line" states of the brain, associated with consummatory behaviors and non-REM sleep, and are influenced by numerous neurotransmitters and neuromodulators. They arise from the excitatory recurrent system of the CA3 region and the SPW-induced excitation brings about a fast network oscillation (ripple) in CA1. The spike content of SPW-Rs is temporally and spatially coordinated by a consortium of interneurons to replay fragments of waking neuronal sequences in a compressed format. SPW-Rs assist in transferring this compressed hippocampal representation to distributed circuits to support memory consolidation; selective disruption of SPW-Rs interferes with memory. Recently acquired and pre-existing information are combined during SPW-R replay to influence decisions, plan actions and, potentially, allow for creative thoughts. In addition to the widely studied contribution to memory, SPW-Rs may also affect endocrine function via activation of hypothalamic circuits. Alteration of the physiological mechanisms supporting SPW-Rs leads to their pathological conversion, "p-ripples," which are a marker of epileptogenic tissue and can be observed in rodent models of schizophrenia and Alzheimer's Disease. Mechanisms for SPW-R genesis and function are discussed in this review.

Keywords: epilepsy; imagining; learning; memory; planning.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers*
  • Brain Waves / physiology*
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Memory, Episodic*


  • Biomarkers