Spatial and temporal episodic memory retrieval recruit dissociable functional networks in the human brain

Arne D. Ekstrom, Susan Y. Bookheimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Imaging, electrophysiological studies, and lesion work have shown that the medial temporal lobe (MTL) is important for episodic memory; however, it is unclear whether different MTL regions support the spatial, temporal, and item elements of episodic memory. In this study we used fMRI to examine retrieval performance emphasizing different aspects of episodic memory in the context of a spatial navigation paradigm. Subjects played a taxi-driver game ("yellowcab"), in which they freely searched for passengers and delivered them to specific landmark stores. Subjects then underwent fMRI scanning as they retrieved landmarks, spatial, and temporal associations from their navigational experience in three separate runs. Consistent with previous findings on item memory, perirhinal cortex activated most strongly during landmark retrieval compared with spatial or temporal source information retrieval. Both hippocampus and parahippocampal cortex activated significantly during retrieval of landmarks, spatial associations, and temporal order. We found, however, a significant dissociation between hippocampal and parahippocampal cortex activations, with spatial retrieval leading to greater parahippocampal activation compared with hippocampus and temporal order retrieval leading to greater hippocampal activation compared with parahippocampal cortex. Our results, coupled with previous findings, demonstrate that the hippocampus and parahippocampal cortex are preferentially recruited during temporal order and spatial association retrieval-key components of episodic "source" memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)645-654
Number of pages10
JournalLearning and Memory
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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