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Hippocampus. 2001;11(6):690-8.

Adaptive anterior hippocampal responses to oddball stimuli.

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  • 1Wellcome Department of Cognitive Neurology, Institute of Neurology, London, UK.


An efficient memory system requires the ability to detect and preferentially encode novel stimuli. Human electrophysiological recordings demonstrate differential hippocampal responses to novel vs. familiar stimuli, as well as to oddball stimuli. Although functional imaging experiments of novelty detection have demonstrated hippocampal activation, oddball-evoked hippocampal activation has not been demonstrated. Here we use event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure hippocampal responses to three types of oddball words: perceptual, semantic, and emotional. We demonstrate left anterior hippocampal sensitivity to all three oddball types, with adaptation of responses across multiple oddball presentations. This adaptive hippocampal oddball response was not modulated by depth of processing, suggesting a high degree of automaticity in the underlying process. However, an interaction with depth of encoding for semantic oddballs was evident in a more lateral left anterior hippocampal region. We conclude that the hippocampal response to oddballs demonstrates a second-order novelty effect, being sensitive to the "novelty of novelty" of oddball stimuli. The data provide support for a more general theory that a function of the anterior hippocampus is to register mismatches between expectation and experience.

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