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PNB Colloquium - Shayna Rosenbaum - Re-examining the role of the hippocampus in spatial memory



Re-examining the role of the hippocampus in spatial memory

The hippocampus figures prominently as a brain structure that is central to memory, but the types of memory for which it is responsible are under debate. A popular view is that the hippocampus is always necessary for finding one’s way in an environment based on allocentric (viewer-independent)spatial memory and, by extension, episodic memory, whether the memory was formed recently or in the remote past. I will present research demonstrating that the hippocampus is indeed needed to support precise and vivid representations of environments in spatial memory and of past personal events in episodic memory. These representations require a mechanism for distinguishing details across highly similar or overlapping routes and events, known as pattern separation. By contrast, the hippocampus does not appear to be needed for schematic or coarse representations of personal and general facts (semantic memory) or locations of landmarks, though it may nevertheless be called on to use these representations in a flexible way or to distinguish highly similar information contained within them. I will conclude by discussing ways to reconcile discrepancies in the literature on the role of the hippocampus in spatial memory in an effort to guide predictions of spared and impaired areas of function following damage to this structure.

Shayna Rosenbaum is a Professor and York Research Chair in the Department of Psychology and Vision:Science to Applications (VISTA) Program at York University and is an Associate Scientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest. She is registered as a Clinical Neuropsychologist with the College of Psychologists of Ontario. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Toronto in 2004 and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Rotman. She has published extensively on the topics of memory and spatial navigation, and has received awards for her neuroimaging and patient research, most recently the Early Career Award from the International Neuropsychological Society. Her research is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. She is an elected member of the Royal Society of Canada College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Ontario Science Centre.

Location information

1280 Main St W, Hamilton, ON L8S 4L8, Canada

Hamilton L8S 4L8
1280 Main Street West

Contact Department

Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour (PNB)
Psychology Building (PC), Room 102
McMaster University
1280 Main Street West
Hamilton Ontario L8S 4K1