The hippocampus: a special place for time

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2016 Apr;1369(1):93-110. doi: 10.1111/nyas.13043. Epub 2016 Apr 15.


Many findings have demonstrated that memories of past events are temporally organized. It is well known that the hippocampus is critical for such episodic memories, but, until recently, little was known about the temporal organization of mnemonic representations in the hippocampus. Recent developments in human and animal research have revealed important insights into the role of the hippocampus in learning and retrieving sequences of events. Here, we review these findings, including lesion and single-unit recording studies in rodents, functional magnetic resonance imaging studies in humans, and computational models that link findings from these studies to the anatomy of the hippocampal circuit. The findings converge toward the idea that the hippocampus is essential for learning sequences of events, allowing the brain to distinguish between memories for conceptually similar but temporally distinct episodes, and to associate representations of temporally contiguous, but otherwise unrelated experiences.

Keywords: episodic; hippocampus; memory; sequence; time.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hippocampus / diagnostic imaging
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Nerve Net / diagnostic imaging
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Rodentia
  • Time Perception / physiology*