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J Neurosci. 2014 Mar 26;34(13):4692-707. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5808-12.2014.

A unified mathematical framework for coding time, space, and sequences in the hippocampal region.

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  • 1Center for Memory and Brain and Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, and Department of Neuroscience, State University of New York, Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, New York 13210.


The medial temporal lobe (MTL) is believed to support episodic memory, vivid recollection of a specific event situated in a particular place at a particular time. There is ample neurophysiological evidence that the MTL computes location in allocentric space and more recent evidence that the MTL also codes for time. Space and time represent a similar computational challenge; both are variables that cannot be simply calculated from the immediately available sensory information. We introduce a simple mathematical framework that computes functions of both spatial location and time as special cases of a more general computation. In this framework, experience unfolding in time is encoded via a set of leaky integrators. These leaky integrators encode the Laplace transform of their input. The information contained in the transform can be recovered using an approximation to the inverse Laplace transform. In the temporal domain, the resulting representation reconstructs the temporal history. By integrating movements, the equations give rise to a representation of the path taken to arrive at the present location. By modulating the transform with information about allocentric velocity, the equations code for position of a landmark. Simulated cells show a close correspondence to neurons observed in various regions for all three cases. In the temporal domain, novel secondary analyses of hippocampal time cells verified several qualitative predictions of the model. An integrated representation of spatiotemporal context can be computed by taking conjunctions of these elemental inputs, leading to a correspondence with conjunctive neural representations observed in dorsal CA1.


entorhinal cortex; hippocampus; place cells; spatiotemporal context; subiculum; time cells

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