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Keywords:

  • hippocampus;
  • place cells;
  • episodic memory;
  • attention;
  • neuromodulation

Lesions of the hippocampus and related structures produce profound anterograde amnesia. The amnesia is specific to what has been called “explicit,”“declarative,” and “episodic” memory. These memories are frequently believed to be central to the human condition, requiring such advanced cognitive functions as attention and even consciousness. However, the hippocampus and associated structures are evolutionarily conserved, which argues that the memories of lower mammals should be qualitatively similar in nature. Just as attention and arousal are critical components of appropriate memory formation in humans, an emerging body of evidence suggests that these processes bear on the firing patterns of hippocampal neurons in rodents. Here the evidence favoring this hypothesis is discussed and then the potential anatomical basis for such modulation is considered.