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Précis of O'Keefe & Nadel's The hippocampus as a cognitive map

  • John O'Keefe (a1) and Lynn Nadel (a2)

Theories of spatial cognition are derived from many sources. Psychologists are concerned with determining the features of the mind which, in combination with external inputs, produce our spatialized experience. A review of philosophical and other approaches has convinced us that the brain must come equipped to impose a three-dimensional Euclidean framework on experience – our analysis suggests that object re-identification may require such a framework. We identify this absolute, nonegocentric, spatial framework with a specific neural system centered in the hippocampus.

A consideration of the kinds of behaviours in which such a spatial mapping system would be important is followed by an analysis of the anatomy and physiology of this system, with special emphasis on the place-coded neurons recorded in the hippocampus of freely moving rats. A tentative physiological model for the hippocampal cognitive map is proposed. A review of lesion studies, in tasks as diverse as discrimination learning, avoidance, and extinction, shows that the cognitive map notion can adequately explain much of the data.

The model is extended to humans by the assumption that spatial maps are built in one hemisphere, semantic maps in the other. The latter provide a semantic deep structure within which discourse comprehension and production can be achieved. Evidence from the study of amnesic patients, briefly reviewed, is consistent with this extension.

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W. R. Adey (1967) Role of hippocampus in attention and learning. In: W. R. Adey , and T. Tokizane (eds.), Structure and function of the limbic system: Progress in brain research, vol. 27. New York: Elsevier. [JEH]

I. S. Beritashvili (1971) Vertebrate memory: Characteristics and origins. New York: Plenum Press. [JO'K]

R. J. Douglas (1975) The development of hippocampal function: Implications for theory and for therapy. In: R. Isaacson and K. Pribram (eds. ), The hippocampus, II. pp. 327361. New York: Plenum Press. [RJD]

P. J. Livesey (1975) Fractionation of hippocampal function in learning. In: R. L. Isaacson , and K. H. Pribram , (eds.), The hippocampus: 2. Neurophysiology and behavior, pp. 279301. New York: Plenum Press. [HU]

E. Mach (1897). Contributions to the analysis of the sensations (trans. C. M. Williams ). Chicago, Ill.: Open Court. [JO'K]

G. Miller , and P. Johnson-Laird (1976) Language and perception. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press. [RJ, JO'K]

C. H. Vanderwolf , B. H. Bland , and I. Q. Whishaw (1973) Diencephalic hippocampal and neocortical mechanisms in voluntary movement. In: J. D. Maser , (ed.), Efferent organization and the integration of behaviour, pp. 229262. New York: Academic Press. [JO'K]

J. Winson (1976c) Topographic patterns of hippocampal theta rhythm in freely moving rat and rabbit. In J. F. De France (ed.), The septal nuclei, pp. 463480. New York: Plenum Press. [JO'K]

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Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • ISSN: 0140-525X
  • EISSN: 1469-1825
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioral-and-brain-sciences
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