Proximity to boundaries reveals spatial context representation in human hippocampal CA1

Maya Geva-Sagiv*, Halle R. Dimsdale-Zucker, Ashley B. Williams, Charan Ranganath

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recollection of real-world events is often accompanied by a sense of being in the place where the event transpired. Convergent evidence suggests the hippocampus plays a key role in supporting episodic memory by associating information with the time and place it was originally encountered. This representation is reinstated during memory retrieval. However, little is known about the roles of different subfields of the human hippocampus in this process. Research in humans and non-human animal models has suggested that spatial environmental boundaries have a powerful influence on spatial and episodic memory, as well as hippocampal representations of contexts and events. Here, we used high-resolution fMRI to investigate how boundaries influence hippocampal activity patterns during the recollection of objects encountered in different spatial contexts. During the encoding phase, participants viewed objects once in a naturalistic virtual reality task in which they passively explored two rooms in one of two houses. Following the encoding phase, participants were scanned while they recollected items in the absence of any spatial contextual information. Our behavioral results demonstrated that spatial context memory was enhanced for objects encountered near a boundary. Activity patterns in CA1 carried information about the spatial context associated with each of these boundary items. Exploratory analyses revealed that recollection performance was correlated with the fidelity of retrieved spatial context representations in anterior parahippocampal cortex and subiculum. Our results highlight the privileged role of boundaries in CA1 and suggest more generally a close relationship between memory for spatial contexts and representations in the hippocampus and parahippocampal region.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108656
StatePublished - 10 Oct 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • CA1
  • Episodic memory
  • Hippocampus
  • Spatial perception
  • Virtual reality


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