A Neural Chronometry of Memory Recall

Trends Cogn Sci. 2019 Dec;23(12):1071-1085. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2019.09.011. Epub 2019 Oct 28.


Episodic memory allows us to mentally travel through time. How does the brain convert a simple reminder cue into a full-blown memory of past events and experiences? In this review, we integrate recent developments in the cognitive neuroscience of human memory retrieval, pinpointing the neural chronometry underlying successful recall. Electrophysiological recordings suggest that sensory cues proceed into the medial temporal lobe within the first 500 ms. At this point, a hippocampal process sets in, geared toward internal pattern completion and coordination of cortical memory reinstatement between 500 and 1500 ms. We further highlight the dynamic principles governing the recall process, which include a reversal of perceptual information flows, temporal compression, and theta clocking.

Keywords: hippocampus; memory; pattern completion; recall; reinstatement; theta.

Publication types

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