Memory-related processing is the primary driver of human hippocampal theta oscillations

Sarah E. Seger, Jennifer L.S. Kriegel, Brad C. Lega, Arne D. Ekstrom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Decades of work in rodents suggest that movement is a powerful driver of hippocampal low-frequency “theta” oscillations. Puzzlingly, such movement-related theta increases in primates are less sustained and of lower frequency, leading to questions about their functional relevance. Verbal memory encoding and retrieval lead to robust increases in low-frequency oscillations in humans, and one possibility is that memory might be a stronger driver of hippocampal theta oscillations in humans than navigation. Here, neurosurgical patients navigated routes and then immediately mentally simulated the same routes while undergoing intracranial recordings. We found that mentally simulating the same route that was just navigated elicited oscillations that were of greater power, higher frequency, and longer duration than those involving navigation. Our findings suggest that memory is a more potent driver of human hippocampal theta oscillations than navigation, supporting models of internally generated theta oscillations in the human hippocampus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3119-3130.e4
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 4 2023


  • hippocampus
  • intracranial EEG
  • learning
  • navigation
  • spatial cognition
  • virtual reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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