Remote Memory and the Hippocampus: A Constructive Critique

Trends Cogn Sci. 2019 Feb;23(2):128-142. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2018.11.005. Epub 2018 Dec 5.


The hippocampus is known to be recruited during the recall of experiences from our distant past, despite evidence that memory traces in this region vanish over time. Extant theories of systems-level consolidation have yet to accommodate both phenomena. We propose that the hippocampus reconstructs remote memories in the absence of the original trace. It accomplishes this by assembling consolidated neocortical elements into spatially coherent scenes that form the basis of unfolding memory events. This reconstruction is likely facilitated by input from the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. This process-oriented approach to hippocampal recruitment during remote recollection is consistent with its increasingly acknowledged role in constructing mental representations beyond the domain of memory.

Keywords: episodic memory; reconstruction; scenes; systems-level consolidation; vmPFC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Memory Consolidation / physiology*
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Memory, Long-Term / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*