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WIREs Cogn Sci
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Memory systems

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Abstract The idea that there are multiple memory systems can be traced to early philosophical considerations and introspection. However, the early experimental work considered memory a unitary phenomenon and focused on finding the mechanism upon which memory is based. A full reconciliation of debates about that mechanism, and a coincidental rediscovery of the idea of multiple memory systems, emerged from studies in the cognitive neuroscience of memory. This research has identified three major forms of memory that have distinct operating principles and are supported by different brain systems. These include: (1) a cortical‐hippocampal circuit that mediates declarative memory, our capacity to recollect facts and events; (2) procedural memory subsystems involving a cortical‐striatal circuit that mediates habit formation and a brainstem‐cerebellar circuit that mediates sensorimotor adaptations; and (3) a circuit involving subcortical and cortical pathways through the amygdala that mediates the attachment of affective status and emotional responses to previously neutral stimuli. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. This article is categorized under: Psychology > Memory Neuroscience > Cognition

A schematic diagram of three prominent memory systems of the brain. The origins of major inputs to each of these systems involves widespread areas of the neocortex, and in particular the so‐called association areas. Outputs of these cortical areas project in parallel via three main routes. One route is through the parahippocampal region and into the hippocampus. The main outputs of hippocampal and parahippocampal processing are back to the same cortical areas that provided the main inputs. These pathways mediate declarative memory. Another route involves projections into two main subsystems via the striatum and cerebellum that mediate different aspects of procedural memory. These pathways involve both projections back to the cortex and outputs to brainstem motor nuclei. The third main route from the cortex is to the amygdala. Outputs of the amygdala project in several directions to hormonal and autonomic outputs. This system mediates the expression of emotional memories. Amygdala outputs also return to the cortex and to the other memory systems to modulate the consolidation of other types of memory processing.

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