We describe how the Complementary Learning Systems neural network model of recognition memory (Norman and O'Reilly (2003) Psychol Rev 104:611-646) can shed light on current debates regarding hippocampal and cortical contributions to recognition memory. We review simulation results illustrating three critical differences in how (according to the model) hippocampus and cortex contribute to recognition memory, all of which derive from the hippocampus' use of pattern separated representations. Pattern separation makes the hippocampus especially well-suited for discriminating between studied items and related lures; it makes the hippocampus especially poorly suited for computing global match; and it imbues the hippocampal ROC curve with a Y-intercept > 0. We also describe a key boundary condition on these differences: When the average level of similarity between items in an experiment is very high, hippocampal pattern separation can fail, at which point the hippocampal model will start to behave like the cortical model. We describe the implications of these simulation results for extant debates over how to describe hippocampal versus cortical contributions and how to measure these contributions.
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