Previous studies have reported conflicting results regarding the effect of direct electrical stimulation of the human hippocampus on memory performance. A major function of the hippocampus is to form associations between individual elements of experience. However, the effect of direct hippocampal stimulation on associative memory remains largely inconclusive, with most evidence coming from studies employing non-invasive stimulation. Here, we therefore tested the hypothesis that direct electrical stimulation of the hippocampus specifically enhances hippocampal-dependent associative memory. To test this hypothesis, we recruited surgical patients with implanted subdural electrodes to perform a word pair memory task during which the hippocampus was stimulated. Our results indicate that stimulation of the hippocampus during encoding helped to build strong associative memories and enhanced recollection in subsequent trials. Moreover, stimulation significantly increased theta power in the lateral middle temporal cortex during successful memory encoding. Overall, our findings indicate that hippocampal stimulation positively impacts performance during a word pair memory task, suggesting that successful memory encoding involves the temporal cortex, which may act together with the hippocampus.
Keywords: brain stimulation; hippocampus; lateral temporal cortex; memory enhancement; recollection; theta power.