Some memories are linked to a specific time and place, allowing one to re-experience the original event, whereas others are accompanied only by a feeling of familiarity. To uncover the distinct neural bases for these two types of memory, we measured brain activity during memory retrieval using event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging. We show that activity in the hippocampus increased only when retrieval was accompanied by conscious recollection of the learning episode. Hippocampal activity did not increase for items recognized based on familiarity or for unrecognized items. These results indicate that the hippocampus selectively supports the retrieval of episodic memories.