Howard Eichenbaum

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Howard Eichenbaum
Born(1947-10-16)October 16, 1947
DiedJuly 21, 2017(2017-07-21) (aged 69)
Scientific career
FieldsPsychology, Neuroscience
InstitutionsBoston University, Wellesley College

Howard B. Eichenbaum (October 16, 1947 – July 21, 2017) was an American psychologist and neuroscientist who studied the hippocampus.[1][2] He was a university professor and director of the Center for Memory and Brain at Boston University, having previously worked at Wellesley College. He was the editor-in-chief of the scientific journal Hippocampus.

Research on the role of hippocampus in memory function[edit]

Eichenbaum performed extensive research on the role of the hippocampus in memory function, presenting a theory of the role of the hippocampus in forming relational memories.[3] This work was important for emphasizing the behavioral role of the hippocampus beyond forming spatial representations of the environment. Eichenbaum and his collaborators performed early studies emphasizing the non-spatial responses of hippocampal neurons, showing spiking responses selective to individual odors and reward delivery during performance of behavioral tasks.[4][5]

Research on context-selective neuronal responses[edit]

Research by Eichenbaum also demonstrated the strong context-dependence of neuronal responses in the hippocampus. One study from his lab at Boston University presented data from rats performing a spatial alternation task with return arms. As the rat ran up the stem of the task on different trials, the spiking response of hippocampal neurons depended on the prior or future response of the rat, showing differential firing even though the location and movement direction of the rat was the same.[6] This illustrated the strong memory dependence of hippocampal neuronal responses independent of the spatial location and movement of the rat. This experiment and other data from his laboratory show how different events in the same location could be coded as different episodes.

Research on time cells[edit]

Research by Eichenbaum and others has demonstrated that individual neurons in the hippocampus and other regions show spiking activity at specific time intervals during behavioral tasks. Eichenbaum described these neurons as "time cells"[7][8][9] and argued that the same neurons could equally act as place cells.[10] The loss of time cells in the hippocampus may contribute to the loss of episodic memory function described in patient HM.[11][12] Time cells may contribute to the role of the hippocampus in allowing what Tulving termed mental time travel in the recall of past episodic memories. Time cells may code individual time intervals necessary to disambiguate different temporal episodes within an episodic memory.


  1. ^ Date information sourced from Library of Congress Authorities data, via corresponding WorldCat Identities linked authority file (LAF).
  2. ^ Brown, Joel (2017-07-24). "BU's Howard Eichenbaum Dies at 69". BU Today. Boston University. Retrieved 2017-07-24.
  3. ^ Eichenbaum H, Cohen NJ (2004) From Conditioning to Conscious Recollection: Memory Systems of the Brain. Oxford University Press: Oxford, UK.
  4. ^ Wiener SI, Paul CA, Eichenbaum H. (1989) Spatial and behavioral correlates of hippocampal neuronal activity. J Neurosci. 9(8):2737-63.
  5. ^ Wood ER, Dudchenko PA, Eichenbaum H. (1999) The global record of memory in hippocampal neuronal activity. Nature. 397(6720):613-6.
  6. ^ Wood ER, Dudchenko PA, Robitsek RJ, Eichenbaum H. (2000) Hippocampal neurons encode information about different types of memory episodes occurring in the same location. Neuron. 27(3):623-33.
  7. ^ Eichenbaum H. (2014) Time cells in the hippocampus: a new dimension for mapping memories. Nat Rev Neurosci. 15(11):732-44.
  8. ^ MacDonald, C.J., Lepage, K.Q., Eden, U.T., and Eichenbaum, H. (2011). Hippocampal “Time Cells” Bridge the Gap in Memory for Discontiguous Events. Neuron 71, 737–749.
  9. ^ Kraus BJ, Robinson RJ 2nd, White JA, Eichenbaum H, Hasselmo ME. (2013) Hippocampal "time cells": time versus path integration. Neuron. 78(6):1090-101.
  10. ^ Eichenbaum H (2013) Memory on time. Trends Cogn. Sci. 17(2):81-88.
  11. ^ Jenny Marder (February 25, 2013). "What a Missing Section of One Man's Brain Taught Science About Memory". PBS. Archived from the original on June 6, 2014. Retrieved July 16, 2014.
  12. ^ Kate Lunau (February 17, 2013). "The mystery of memory". Archived from the original on July 15, 2014. Retrieved July 16, 2014.