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The Architecture of Human Memory: Insights from Human Single-Neuron Recordings


Rutishauser, Ueli; Reddy, Leila; Mormann, Florian; Sarnthein, Johannes (2021). The Architecture of Human Memory: Insights from Human Single-Neuron Recordings. Journal of Neuroscience, 41(5):883-890.

Abstract

Deciphering the mechanisms of human memory is a central goal of neuroscience, both from the point of view of the fundamental biology of memory and for its translational relevance. Here, we review some contributions that recordings from neurons in humans implanted with electrodes for clinical purposes have made toward this goal. Recordings from the medial temporal lobe, including the hippocampus, reveal the existence of two classes of cells: those encoding highly selective and invariant representations of abstract concepts, and memory-selective cells whose activity is related to familiarity and episodic retrieval. Insights derived from observing these cells in behaving humans include that semantic representations are activated before episodic representations, that memory content and memory strength are segregated, and that the activity of both types of cells is related to subjective awareness as expected from a substrate for declarative memory. Visually selective cells can remain persistently active for several seconds, thereby revealing a cellular substrate for working memory in humans. An overarching insight is that the neural code of human memory is interpretable at the single-neuron level. Jointly, intracranial recording studies are starting to reveal aspects of the building blocks of human memory at the single-cell level. This work establishes a bridge to cellular-level work in animals on the one hand, and the extensive literature on noninvasive imaging in humans on the other hand. More broadly, this work is a step toward a detailed mechanistic understanding of human memory that is needed to develop therapies for human memory disorders.

Abstract

Deciphering the mechanisms of human memory is a central goal of neuroscience, both from the point of view of the fundamental biology of memory and for its translational relevance. Here, we review some contributions that recordings from neurons in humans implanted with electrodes for clinical purposes have made toward this goal. Recordings from the medial temporal lobe, including the hippocampus, reveal the existence of two classes of cells: those encoding highly selective and invariant representations of abstract concepts, and memory-selective cells whose activity is related to familiarity and episodic retrieval. Insights derived from observing these cells in behaving humans include that semantic representations are activated before episodic representations, that memory content and memory strength are segregated, and that the activity of both types of cells is related to subjective awareness as expected from a substrate for declarative memory. Visually selective cells can remain persistently active for several seconds, thereby revealing a cellular substrate for working memory in humans. An overarching insight is that the neural code of human memory is interpretable at the single-neuron level. Jointly, intracranial recording studies are starting to reveal aspects of the building blocks of human memory at the single-cell level. This work establishes a bridge to cellular-level work in animals on the one hand, and the extensive literature on noninvasive imaging in humans on the other hand. More broadly, this work is a step toward a detailed mechanistic understanding of human memory that is needed to develop therapies for human memory disorders.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > University Hospital Zurich > Clinic for Neurosurgery
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:3 February 2021
Deposited On:11 Feb 2021 10:42
Last Modified:11 Feb 2021 10:42
Publisher:Society for Neuroscience
ISSN:0270-6474
OA Status:Closed
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1648-20.2020
PubMed ID:33257323

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Language: English
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Embargo till: 2021-08-03