The hippocampus is a well-protected structure of the brain as it is situated on the medial part of temporal lobe and is considered to be a center of emotion that plays a role in spatial orientation and memory. As for memory implications that the hippocampus has, researchers from the departments of Psychology and Neurosurgery of the University of Pennsylvania in the Perelman School of Medicine have linked it to recognition memory, which includes both recollection and recognition of a memory.
“There has been a longstanding debate in the field of recognition memory about how the human hippocampus contributes to our ability to recognize,” said Maxwell Merkow, one of the authors of the study. Based on their hypothesis that the hippocampus is tasked with recollecting memories, but also with recognizing the exact specific details of a memory, thus the ability to familiarize a past moment with a present one, they decided to see if the link between the structure and recognition memory really exists.
To do that, they have examined patients who already had their hippocampus monitored, due to being diagnosed with epilepsy. This patients were asked to play a simple memory game while the researchers were recording electrical data from their hippocampus. When patients remembered a previous shown word, high frequency activity was spotted in the hippocampus.
Their studies concluded that the whole process of recognition memory, meaning that both recollection and recognition, happen inside the hippocampus. As for why this study is so important, it is because usually people with degenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s or traumatic brain injuries in the temporal lobe have problems with memory recognition, more than with memory loss. By better understanding how memory is recollected and familiarized, not only stored, might give us more insight for better treatments.