The hippocampal formation and action at a distance

Lynn Nadel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The question of why our conceptions of space and time are intertwined with memory in the hippocampal formation is at the forefront of much current theorizing about this brain system. In this article I argue that animals bridge spatial and temporal gaps through the creation of internal models that allow them to act on the basis of things that exist in a distant place and/or existed at a different time. The hippocampal formation plays a critical role in these processes by stitching together spatiotemporally disparate entities and events. It does this by 1) constructing cognitive maps that represent extended spatial contexts, incorporating and linking aspects of an environment that may never have been experienced together; 2) creating neural trajectories that link the parts of an event, whether they occur in close temporal proximity or not, enabling the construction of event representations even when elements of that event were experienced at quite different times; and 3) using these maps and trajectories to simulate possible futures. As a function of these hippocampally driven processes, our subjective sense of both space and time are interwoven constructions of the mind, much as the philosopher Immanuel Kant postulated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2119670118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number51
StatePublished - Dec 21 2021


  • Cognitive maps
  • Hippocampus
  • Memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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