in our laboratory examines how memories acquired long ago are represented in
the brain. Damage to the hippocampus results in severe amnesia, but there is
controversy surrounding the specific types of memory that are compromised.
Some believe that the hippocampus is always necessary for finding one’s way in
an environment (spatial memory), whereas others view this structure as
necessary for re-experiencing the details of personal life events (episodic
memory). Still, others believe that it plays a time-limited role in all sorts
of declarative memories, similar to its role in representing knowledge about
the world that is not tied to any one event (semantic memory).
addresses the following questions:
What is the role of the hippocampus and
other memory structures in storing and retrieving very old memories? For
example, is the hippocampus always necessary for
re-experiencing the details of personal
How is spatial memory related to memory
for personal events and for facts?
How does reconstructing past
autobiographical episodes relate to non-mnemonic abilities, such as imagining events that have never occurred or deciphering other people’s current mental
Methods of investigation include
neuropsychological testing of patients with damage to the medial temporal
lobes and prefrontal cortex, and structural and functional MRI of patient and
healthy populations. Findings from this research will hopefully add to our
understanding of the relationship among different types of memory and their
breakdown following brain damage.