Meta-analytic and functional connectivity evidence from functional magnetic resonance imaging for an anterior to posterior gradient of function along the hippocampal axis

Hippocampus. 2020 May;30(5):456-471. doi: 10.1002/hipo.23164. Epub 2019 Oct 7.


There is considerable evidence from non-human animal studies that the anterior and posterior regions of the hippocampus have different anatomical connections and support different behavioural functions. Although there are some recent human studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that have addressed this idea directly in the memory and spatial processing domains and provided support for it, there has been no broader meta-analysis of the fMRI literature to determine if there is consistent evidence for functional dissociations in anterior and posterior hippocampus across all of the different cognitive domains in which the hippocampus participates. The purpose of this review is to address this gap in our knowledge using three approaches. One approach involved PubMed searches to identify relevant fMRI papers reporting hippocampal activation during episodic encoding and retrieval, semantic retrieval, working memory, spatial navigation, simulation/scene construction, transitive inference, and social cognition tasks. The second was to use a large meta-analytic database (neurosynth) to find text terms and coactivation maps associated with the anterior and posterior hippocampal regions identified in the literature search. The third approach was to contrast the resting-state functional connectivity of the anterior and posterior hippocampal regions using a publicly available database that includes a large sample of adults. These three approaches provided converging evidence that not only are cognitive processes differently distributed along the hippocampal axis, but there also are distinct areas coactivated and functionally connected with the anterior and posterior segments. This anterior/posterior distinction involving multiple cognitive domains is consistent with the animal literature and provides strong support from fMRI for the idea of functional dissociations across the long axis of the hippocampus.

Keywords: RRID:SCR_006798; RRID:SCR_009550; RRID:SCR_009603; anterior; fMRI; hippocampus; posterior.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cognition / physiology
  • Hippocampus / diagnostic imaging*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Nerve Net / diagnostic imaging*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*

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