Role of the hippocampus in remembering the past and imagining the future
It has been proposed that a core network of brain regions, including the hippocampus, supports both past remembering and future imagining. We investigated the importance of the hippocampus for these functions. Five patients with bilateral hippocampal damage and one patient with large medial temporal lobe lesions were tested for their ability to recount autobiographical episodes from the remote past, the recent past, and to imagine plausible episodes in the near future. The patients with hippocampal damage had intact remote autobiographical memory, modestly impaired recent memory, and an intact ability to imagine the future. The patient with large medial temporal lobe lesions had intact remote memory, markedly impaired recent memory, and also had an intact ability to imagine the future. The findings suggest that the capacity for imagining the future, like the capacity for remembering the remote past, is independent of the hippocampus.