The Continuity of Context: A Role for the Hippocampus

Andrew P. Maurer, Lynn Nadel

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Tracking moment-to-moment change in input and detecting change sufficient to require altering behavior is crucial to survival. Here, we discuss how the brain evaluates change over time, focusing on the hippocampus and its role in tracking context. We leverage the anatomy and physiology of the hippocampal longitudinal axis, re-entrant loops, and amorphous networks to account for stimulus equivalence and the updating of an organism's sense of its context. Place cells have a central role in tracking contextual continuities and discontinuities across multiple scales, a capacity beyond current models of pattern separation and completion. This perspective highlights the critical role of the hippocampus in both spatial cognition and episodic memory: tracking change and detecting boundaries separating one context, or episode, from another.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-199
Number of pages13
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • context
  • dynamical systems
  • hippocampus
  • longitudinal axis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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