Dynamic hippocampal and prefrontal contributions to memory processes and representations blur the boundaries of traditional cognitive domains

Rachael D. Rubin, Hillary Schwarb, Heather D. Lucas, Michael R. Dulas, Neal J. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


The hippocampus has long been known to be a critical component of the memory system involved in the formation and use of long-term declarative memory. However, recent findings have revealed that the reach of hippocampal contributions extends to a variety of domains and tasks that require the flexible use of cognitive and social behavior, including domains traditionally linked to prefrontal cortex (PFC), such as decision-making. In addition, the prefrontal cortex (PFC) has gained traction as a necessary part of the memory system. These findings challenge the conventional characterizations of hippocampus and PFC as being circumscribed to traditional cognitive domains. Here, we emphasize that the ability to parsimoniously account for the breadth of hippocampal and PFC contributions to behavior, in terms of memory function and beyond, requires theoretical advances in our understanding of their characteristic processing features and mental representations. Notably, several literatures exist that touch upon this issue, but have remained disjointed because of methodological differences that necessarily limit the scope of inquiry, as well as the somewhat artificial boundaries that have been historically imposed between domains of cognition. In particular, this article focuses on the contribution of relational memory theory as an example of a framework that describes both the representations and processes supported by the hippocampus, and further elucidates the role of the hippocampal-PFC network to a variety of behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 12 2017



  • Brain networks
  • Hippocampus
  • Memory
  • Patient studies
  • Prefrontal cortex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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