The hippocampal sharp wave-ripple in memory retrieval for immediate use and consolidation

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2018 Dec;19(12):744-757. doi: 10.1038/s41583-018-0077-1.


Various cognitive functions have long been known to require the hippocampus. Recently, progress has been made in identifying the hippocampal neural activity patterns that implement these functions. One such pattern is the sharp wave-ripple (SWR), an event associated with highly synchronous neural firing in the hippocampus and modulation of neural activity in distributed brain regions. Hippocampal spiking during SWRs can represent past or potential future experience, and SWR-related interventions can alter subsequent memory performance. These findings and others suggest that SWRs support both memory consolidation and memory retrieval for processes such as decision-making. In addition, studies have identified distinct types of SWR based on representational content, behavioural state and physiological features. These various findings regarding SWRs suggest that different SWR types correspond to different cognitive functions, such as retrieval and consolidation. Here, we introduce another possibility - that a single SWR may support more than one cognitive function. Taking into account classic psychological theories and recent molecular results that suggest that retrieval and consolidation share mechanisms, we propose that the SWR mediates the retrieval of stored representations that can be utilized immediately by downstream circuits in decision-making, planning, recollection and/or imagination while simultaneously initiating memory consolidation processes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Waves / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Memory Consolidation / physiology*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology