Phase precession: a neural code underlying episodic memory?

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2017 Apr;43:130-138. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2017.02.006. Epub 2017 Apr 6.


In the hippocampal formation, the sequential activation of place-specific cells represents a conceptual model for the spatio-temporal events that assemble episodic memories. The imprinting of behavioral sequences in hippocampal networks might be achieved via spike-timing-dependent plasticity and phase precession of the spiking activity of neurons. It is unclear, however, whether phase precession plays an active role by enabling sequence learning via synaptic plasticity or whether phase precession passively reflects retrieval dynamics. Here we examine these possibilities in the context of potential mechanisms generating phase precession. Knowledge of these mechanisms would allow to selectively alter phase precession and test its role in episodic memory. We finally review the few successful approaches to degrade phase precession and the resulting impact on behavior.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / embryology
  • Humans
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*