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A Theory on the Singular Function of the Hippocampus: Facilitating the Binding of New Circuits of Cortical Columns

North Mississippi Medical Center, Tupelo, MS 38801, USA

Special Issues: Is the role of the hippocampus in memory one of storage, facilitating cortical association networks, or both?

Despite the hippocampus being extensively studied, controversy remains as to its role in cognitive processing. The current paper presents a theoretical argument that the hippocampus has only one purpose: the binding of parallel cortical circuits. The paper begins with a discussion of cortical columns as the common binary digit (bit) for all neocortical processing. This is followed by details on the Dimensional Systems Model and its explanation of cortical circuitry. As opposed to any independent function in cognitive processing, the hippocampal cells are viewed as serving a slave function to cortical circuits since they are activated as part of a cortical-hippocampal-thalamic-cortical circuit. As part of that circuit, the hippocampus serves the role of reactivating the cortical circuits involved in complex memories (i.e., involving multiple cortical circuits) to facilitate the consolidation of the involved cortical columns’ interconnections. Next there is a brief discussion of prior theoretical views explaining hippocampal involvement in memory and spatial representations. To facilitate an appreciation of the unique aspects of the new model, it is contrasted against the extensively developed Component Process Model. Conclusions focus on how a complete model of cortical cognitive processing is necessary to adequately explain the purpose of the hippocampus, viewed as a complex structure with an elegantly simple function.
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