Getting directions from the hippocampus: The neural connection between looking and memory

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2016 Oct;134 Pt A(Pt A):135-144. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2015.12.004. Epub 2015 Dec 29.


Investigations into the neural basis of memory in human and non-human primates have focused on the hippocampus and associated medial temporal lobe (MTL) structures. However, how memory signals from the hippocampus affect motor actions is unknown. We propose that approaching this question through eye movement, especially by assessing the changes in looking behavior that occur with experience, is a promising method for exposing neural computations within the hippocampus. Here, we review how looking behavior is guided by memory in several ways, some of which have been shown to depend on the hippocampus, and how hippocampal neural signals are modulated by eye movements. Taken together, these findings highlight the need for future research on how MTL structures interact with the oculomotor system. Probing how the hippocampus reflects and impacts motor output during looking behavior renders a practical path to advance our understanding of the hippocampal memory system.

Keywords: Eye movements; Free-viewing; Hippocampus; Medial temporal lobe; Memory; Neurons; Primate; Saccades.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*