Disambiguating the similar: The dentate gyrus and pattern separation

Brandy Schmidt, Diano F. Marrone, Etan J. Markus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


The human hippocampus supports the formation of episodic memory without confusing new memories with old ones. To accomplish this, the brain must disambiguate memories (i.e., accentuate the differences between experiences). There is convergent evidence linking pattern separation to the dentate gyrus. Damage to the dentate gyrus reduces an organism's ability to differentiate between similar objects. The dentate gyrus has tenfold more principle cells than its cortical input, allowing for a divergence in information flow. Dentate gyrus granule neurons also show a very different pattern of representing the environment than "classic" place cells in CA1 and CA3, or grid cells in the entorhinal cortex. More recently immediate early genes have been used to "timestamp" activity of individual cells throughout the dentate gyrus. These data indicate that the dentate gyrus robustly differentiates similar situations. The degree of differentiation is non-linear, with even small changes in input inducing a near maximal response in the dentate. Furthermore this differentiation occurs throughout the dentate gyrus longitudinal (dorsal-ventral) axis. Conversely, the data point to a divergence in information processing between the dentate gyrus suprapyramidal and infrapyramidal blades possibly related to differences in organization within these regions. The accumulated evidence from different approaches converges to support a role for the dentate gyrus in pattern separation. There are however inconsistencies that may require incorporation of neurogenesis and hippocampal microcircuits into the currents models. They also suggest different roles for the dentate gyrus suprapyramidal and infrapyramidal blades, and the responsiveness of CA3 to dentate input.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)56-65
Number of pages10
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada , and the Ontario Mental Health Foundation (DFM); University of Connecticut Research Foundation (EJM).


  • Hippocampus
  • IEG
  • Neurogenesis
  • Remapping


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