The quintessential memory system in the human brain-the hippocampus and surrounding medial temporal lobe-is often treated as a module for the formation of conscious, or declarative, memories. However, growing evidence suggests that the hippocampus plays a broader role in memory and cognition and that theories organizing memory into strictly dedicated systems may need to be updated. We first consider the historical evidence for the specialized role of the hippocampus in declarative memory. Then, we describe the serendipitous encounter that motivated the special section in this issue, based on parallel research from our labs that suggested a more pervasive contribution of the hippocampus to cognition beyond declarative memory. Finally, we develop a theoretical framework that describes 2 general mechanisms for how the hippocampus interacts with other brain systems and cognitive processes: the memory modulation hypothesis, in which mnemonic representations in the hippocampus modulate the operation of other systems, and the adaptive function hypothesis, in which specialized computations in the hippocampus are recruited as a component of both mnemonic and nonmnemonic functions. This framework is consistent with an emerging view that the most fertile ground for discovery in cognitive psychology and neuroscience lies at the interface between parts of the mind and brain that have traditionally been studied in isolation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Decision making