Hippocampal theta coordinates memory processing during visual exploration

James E. Kragel*, Stephen Vanhaerents, Jessica W. Templer, Stephan Schuele, Joshua M. Rosenow, Aneesha S. Nilakantan, Donna Jo Bridge

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


The hippocampus supports memory encoding and retrieval, which may occur at distinct phases of the theta cycle. These processes dynamically interact over rapid timescales, especially when sensory information conflicts with memory. The ability to link hippocampal dynamics to memory-guided behaviors has been limited by experiments that lack the temporal resolution to segregate encoding and retrieval. Here, we simultaneously tracked eye movements and hippocampal field potentials while neurosurgical patients performed a spatial memory task. Phase-locking at the peak of theta preceded fixations to retrieved locations, indicating that the hippocampus coordinates memory-guided eye movements. In contrast, phase-locking at the trough of theta followed fixations to novel object-locations and predicted intact memory of the original location. Theta-gamma phase amplitude coupling increased during fixations to conflicting visual content, but predicted memory updating. Hippocampal theta thus supports learning through two interleaved processes: strengthening encoding of novel information and guiding exploration based on prior experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere52108
StatePublished - Mar 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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