Hippocampal complex and retrieval of recent and very remote autobiographical memories: Evidence from functional magnetic resonance imaging in neurologically intact people

Lee Ryan, Lynn Nadel, Katrina Keil, Karen Putnam, David Schnyer, Theodore Trouard, Morris Moscovitch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

223 Scopus citations


It has been argued that the role of the hippocampus in memory is time-limited: during a period of memory consolidation, other brain regions such as the neocortex are said to acquire the ability to support memory retention and retrieval on their own. An alternative view is that retention and retrieval of memory for autobiographical episodes depend on the hippocampal complex, regardless of the age of the memory. We examined the participation of the hippocampal complex in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study in which participants were asked to recollect autobiographical events that occurred either within the last 4 years or more than 20 years ago. We found equivalent levels of hippocampal activation in both conditions in all participants (N = 10). In addition, activation in neocortical regions did not differ as a function of the age of the memory, even though most of the recent memories recalled were less than 2 years old and the remote memories more than 35 years old. The results support the notion that the hippocampal complex participates in retention and recovery of even very old autobiographical memories, and place boundary conditions on theories of memory consolidation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)707-714
Number of pages8
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2001



  • Autobiographical memory
  • Consolidation
  • Functional MRI
  • Hippocampus
  • Medial temporal lobe
  • Retrieval

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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