Using multi-task experiments to test principles of hippocampal function

Claire Z. Han, Thomas Donoghue, Runnan Cao, Lukas Kunz, Shuo Wang, Joshua Jacobs

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

1 Scopus citations


Investigations of hippocampal functions have revealed a dizzying array of findings, from lesion-based behavioral deficits, to a diverse range of characterized neural activations, to computational models of putative functionality. Across these findings, there remains an ongoing debate about the core function of the hippocampus and the generality of its representation. Researchers have debated whether the hippocampus's primary role relates to the representation of space, the neural basis of (episodic) memory, or some more general computation that generalizes across various cognitive domains. Within these different perspectives, there is much debate about the nature of feature encodings. Here, we suggest that in order to evaluate hippocampal responses—investigating, for example, whether neuronal representations are narrowly targeted to particular tasks or if they subserve domain-general purposes—a promising research strategy may be the use of multi-task experiments, or more generally switching between multiple task contexts while recording from the same neurons in a given session. We argue that this strategy—when combined with explicitly defined theoretical motivations that guide experiment design—could be a fruitful approach to better understand how hippocampal representations support different behaviors. In doing so, we briefly review key open questions in the field, as exemplified by articles in this special issue, as well as previous work using multi-task experiments, and extrapolate to consider how this strategy could be further applied to probe fundamental questions about hippocampal function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)646-657
Number of pages12
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2023


  • cognitive map
  • concept cells
  • hippocampus
  • multi-task experiments
  • neural representation
  • place cells
  • spatial navigation


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