Space, time, and episodic memory: The hippocampus is all over the cognitive map

Arne D. Ekstrom, Charan Ranganath

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


In recent years, the field has reached an impasse between models suggesting that the hippocampus is fundamentally involved in spatial processing and models suggesting that the hippocampus automatically encodes all dimensions of experience in the service of memory. Here, we consider key conceptual issues that have impeded progress in our understanding of hippocampal function, and we review findings that establish the scope and limits of hippocampal involvement in navigation and memory. We argue that space and time serve as a primary scaffold to break up experiences into specific contexts, and to organize multimodal input that is to be associated within a context. However, the hippocampus is clearly capable of incorporating additional dimensions into the scaffold if they are determined to be relevant in the event-defined context. Conceiving of the hippocampal representation as constrained by immediate task demands—yet preferring axes that involve space and time—helps to reconcile an otherwise disparate set of findings on the core function of the hippocampus.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)680-687
Number of pages8
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • allocentric
  • cognitive map
  • egocentric
  • hippocampus
  • humans
  • path integration
  • spatial navigation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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