Episodic memories are essential for human cognition, but the underlying neural mechanisms remain poorly understood. We utilize the opportunity to record in-vivo from human single neurons simultaneously in multiple brain areas in patients undergoing treatment for drug resistant epilepsy to study the underlying mechanisms. Supported by the BRAIN initiative, we formed a consortium among four institutions (Cedars-Sinai/Caltech, Johns Hopkins, U Toronto, and Children’s/Harvard) to maximize the use of these rare and precious opportunities to further our understanding of human memory. In this panel talk, we will highlight different aspects of our work that has become possible due to this highly interdisciplinary group of experimental and computational scientists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, and ethics experts.
We are developing a circuit-level understanding of human memory by utilizing invasive in-vivo recordings together with behavior, focal electrical stimulation, and computational modeling. We are investigating a putative circuit for human recognition memory that is composed of specific functional types of cells in the medial temporal lobe (MTL) and the medial frontal cortex (MFC). In the MTL, we are investigating the role of visually selective and memory selective cells, whereas in the MFC we are studying memory-choice cells that represent a putative readout of memories to support memory-based recognition and confidence decisions. Together, these results begin to provide a circuit-level understanding of human memory at a level of detail that is needed for the development of new treatments for memory disorders.