Multiple Scales of Representation along the Hippocampal Anteroposterior Axis in Humans

Curr Biol. 2018 Jul 9;28(13):2129-2135.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.05.016. Epub 2018 Jun 21.


The ability to represent the world accurately relies on simultaneous coarse and fine-grained neural information coding, capturing both gist and detail of an experience. The longitudinal axis of the hippocampus may provide a gradient of representational granularity in spatial and episodic memory in rodents and humans [1-8]. Rodent place cells in the ventral hippocampus exhibit significantly larger place fields and greater autocorrelation than those in the dorsal hippocampus [1, 9-11], which may underlie a coarser and slower changing representation of space [10, 12]. Recent evidence suggests that properties of cellular dynamics in rodents can be captured with fMRI in humans during spatial navigation [13] and conceptual learning [14]. Similarly, mechanisms supporting granularity along the long axis may also be extrapolated to the scale of fMRI signal. Here, we provide the first evidence for separable scales of representation along the human hippocampal anteroposterior axis during navigation and rest by showing (1) greater similarity among voxel time courses and (2) higher temporal autocorrelation in anterior hippocampus (aHPC), relative to posterior hippocampus (pHPC), the human homologs of ventral and dorsal rodent hippocampus. aHPC voxels exhibited more similar activity at each time point and slower signal change over time than voxels in pHPC, consistent with place field organization in rodents. Importantly, similarity between voxels was related to navigational strategy and episodic memory. These findings provide evidence that the human hippocampus supports an anterior-to-posterior gradient of coarse-to-fine spatiotemporal representations, suggesting the existence of a cross-species mechanism, whereby lower neural similarity supports more complex coding of experience.

Keywords: fMRI; hippocampus; navigation; resting state fMRI; temporal dynamics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Rest / physiology
  • Spatial Memory / physiology*
  • Spatial Navigation / physiology
  • Young Adult

Grant support