Each day, we access memories, but how these memories are stored and organized is a process that Per Sederberg, PhD, and his
team of scientists are dedicated to understanding. Their recently published study demonstrates that the anterior hippocampus is
responsible for integrating and organizing distinct memories, distant in time and space.
Nine female participants wore Android-based smart phones equipped with a customized
lifelogging device that passively tracked events by recording an image, time, audio (obfuscated),
global positioning system (GPS) coordinates, acceleration and orientation from morning until
evening, for one month. Photos were randomly taken throughout the day, and researchers chose
120 images from each participant’s lifelogging data that occurred at least 16 hours and 100 meters
apart, ordered them randomly and showed them to each respective participant. While viewing
the images, each participant provided detail and was subjected to functional magnetic resonance
imaging to determine a pattern of neural activity. As a result, the left anterior hippocampus
consistently revealed activation patterns that depended on the spatial and temporal distances
between remembered events. These patterns were not present for non-remembered events.
This area of the brain degrades in Alzheimer’s patients, leading to difficulty accessing memories.
Dr. Sederberg’s plans for a future study include a larger, more diverse pool of participants who suffer
from cognitive impairments along with age-matched controls who do not suffer from cognitive
impairments. This will help to determine if early detection of changes in neural representation can
be identified, resulting in earlier disease intervention. Additionally, this methodology can be used
as a tool for tracking cognitive states through time and determining a person’s best brain state for
cognitively demanding professions. Furthermore, this provides an objective cognitive measure
for clinicians to assess patients whom they see only once or twice a year.
Dr. Sederberg attests that the unique, collaborative nature of the various departments, the
University Hospital and Ohio State students have provided a research-oriented environment that
is conducive to this type of groundbreaking study.
Spatial and Temporal Memory
Participants wore a customized lifelogging device that passively tracked events by
recording an image and other information for a month. Later, participants were asked to
provide details about the image while undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging.