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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

December 2019, Vol. 31, No. 12, Pages 1958-1975
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_01457)
© 2019 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Differential Functional Connectivity along the Long Axis of the Hippocampus Aligns with Differential Role in Memory Specificity and Generalization
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The hippocampus contributes to both remembering specific events and generalization across events. Recent work suggests that information may be represented along the longitudinal axis of the hippocampus at varied levels of specificity: detailed representations in the posterior hippocampus and generalized representations in the anterior hippocampus. Similar distinctions are thought to exist within neocortex, with lateral prefrontal and lateral parietal regions supporting memory specificity and ventromedial prefrontal and lateral temporal cortices supporting generalized memory. Here, we tested whether functional connectivity of anterior and posterior hippocampus with cortical memory regions is consistent with these proposed dissociations. We predicted greater connectivity of anterior hippocampus with putative generalization regions and posterior hippocampus with putative memory specificity regions. Furthermore, we tested whether differences in connectivity are stable under varying levels of task engagement. Participants learned to categorize a set of stimuli outside the scanner, followed by an fMRI session that included a rest scan, passive viewing runs, and category generalization task runs. Analyses revealed stronger connectivity of ventromedial pFC to anterior hippocampus and of angular gyrus and inferior frontal gyrus to posterior hippocampus. These differences remained relatively stable across the three phases (rest, passive viewing, category generalization). Whole-brain analyses further revealed widespread cortical connectivity with both anterior and posterior hippocampus, with relatively little overlap. These results contribute to our understanding of functional organization along the long axis of the hippocampus and suggest that distinct hippocampal–cortical connections are one mechanism by which the hippocampus represents both individual experiences and generalized knowledge.