Beyond the hippocampus: The role of parahippocampal-prefrontal communication in context-modulated behavior

Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2021 Nov;185:107520. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2021.107520. Epub 2021 Sep 16.


Multiple paradigms indicate that the physical environment can influence spontaneous and learned behavior. In rodents, context-dependent behavior is putatively supported by the prefrontal cortex and the medial temporal lobe. A preponderance of the literature has targeted the role of the hippocampus. In addition to the hippocampus proper, the medial temporal lobe also comprises parahippocampal areas, including the perirhinal and postrhinal cortices. These parahippocampal areas directly connect with multiple regions in the prefrontal cortex. The function of these connections, however, is not well understood. This article first reviews the involvement of the perirhinal, postrhinal, and prefrontal cortices in context-dependent behavior in rodents. Then, based on functional and anatomical evidence, we suggest that perirhinal and postrhinal contributions to context-dependent behavior go beyond supporting context representation in the hippocampus. Specifically, we propose that the perirhinal and postrhinal cortices act as a contextual-support network that directly provides contextual and spatial information to the prefrontal cortex. In turn, the perirhinal and postrhinal cortices modulate prefrontal input to the hippocampus in the service of context-guided behavior.

Keywords: Context memory; Hippocampus; Occasion setting; Perirhinal cortex; Postrhinal cortex; Prefrontal cortex.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Parahippocampal Gyrus / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology