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Cereb Cortex. 2014 Jul;24(7):1906-22. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bht041. Epub 2013 Feb 28.

Contributions of medial temporal lobe and striatal memory systems to learning and retrieving overlapping spatial memories.

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Psychology Department and Center for Memory and Brain, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, USA Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.


Many life experiences share information with other memories. In order to make decisions based on overlapping memories, we need to distinguish between experiences to determine the appropriate behavior for the current situation. Previous work suggests that the medial temporal lobe (MTL) and medial caudate interact to support the retrieval of overlapping navigational memories in different contexts. The present study used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in humans to test the prediction that the MTL and medial caudate play complementary roles in learning novel mazes that cross paths with, and must be distinguished from, previously learned routes. During fMRI scanning, participants navigated virtual routes that were well learned from prior training while also learning new mazes. Critically, some routes learned during scanning shared hallways with those learned during pre-scan training. Overlap between mazes required participants to use contextual cues to select between alternative behaviors. Results demonstrated parahippocampal cortex activity specific for novel spatial cues that distinguish between overlapping routes. The hippocampus and medial caudate were active for learning overlapping spatial memories, and increased their activity for previously learned routes when they became context dependent. Our findings provide novel evidence that the MTL and medial caudate play complementary roles in the learning, updating, and execution of context-dependent navigational behaviors.


caudate; fMRI; hippocampus; navigation; parahippocampal

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