NEAL COHEN, University of Illinois
Title: The hippocampus, relational memory, and navigating life
Ebbinghaus Empire Series 2015-2016
Abstract: The hippocampus, interconnected with medial temporal lobe and other cortical networks, is critically involved in relational memory, involving the generation, recombination, and flexible use of representations of relations among the constituent elements of events or scenes. Long known to be essential in long-term remembering, it is now clear that relational memory is critical in on-line processing necessary to guide upcoming actions and choices, in order to optimally act in and on the world. Humans are active agents, engaging with the world, actively acquiring and representing information about the environment and about people, and manipulating, updating, and using those representations flexibly to meet current situational demands. The hippocampus and relational memory provide critical support for those abilities; they play a necessary role in memory-guided behavioral choice, future imagining and projection, creativity, advantageous decision-making, social evaluation and social discourse, and language use. More generally, the hippocampus and relational memory make an enormous contribution to our ability to navigate life in all its beautiful complexity.
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