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

Rutishauser, Ueli and Reddy, Leila and Mormann, Florian and Sarnthein, Johannes (2021) The Architecture of Human Memory: Insights from Human Single-Neuron Recordings. Journal of Neuroscience, 41 (5). pp. 883-890. ISSN 0270-6474. PMCID PMC7880272. doi:10.1523/jneurosci.1648-20.2020.

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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.

Item Type:Article
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URLURL TypeDescription CentralArticle
Rutishauser, Ueli0000-0002-9207-7069
Reddy, Leila0000-0002-7078-1055
Mormann, Florian0000-0003-1305-8028
Sarnthein, Johannes0000-0001-9141-381X
Additional Information:© 2021 the authors. For the first six months after publication SfN’s license will be exclusive. Beginning six months after publication the Work will be made freely available to the public on SfN’s website to copy, distribute, or display under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license ( Received June 30, 2020; revised Sep. 24, 2020; accepted Sep. 27, 2020. U.R. was supported by National Institutes of Health R01 MH110831, U01NS117839, and P50MH094258, National Science Foundation Career Award BCS-1554105, and McKnight Foundation for Neuroscience. J.S. was supported by Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF 320030_176222. F.M. was supported by Volkswagen Foundation, German Ministry of Education and Research BMBF 031L0197B, and German Research Council DFG MO 930/8-1, MO 930/4-2, SFB 1089. LR was supported by French ANR-18-CE37-0007-01 AI-REPS. We thank Adam Mamelak, Jan Kamiński, and Ralph Adolphs for discussion. The authors declare no competing financial interests.
Funding AgencyGrant Number
NIHR01 MH110831
McKnight FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)320030_176222
Volkswagen FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)031L0197B
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)MO 930/8-1
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)MO 930/4-2
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)SFB 1089
Agence Nationale pour la Recherche (ANR)ANR-18-CE37-0007-01 AI-REPS
Subject Keywords:single-neuron; human memory; hippocampus; amygdala; entorhinal cortex; episodic memory
Issue or Number:5
PubMed Central ID:PMC7880272
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20201208-105037888
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:The Architecture of Human Memory: Insights from Human Single-Neuron Recordings. Ueli Rutishauser, Leila Reddy, Florian Mormann, Johannes Sarnthein. Journal of Neuroscience 3 February 2021, 41 (5) 883-890; DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1648-20.2020
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:106961
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:09 Dec 2020 15:08
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 18:58

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