Recent studies in humans and animals raise the possibility that actively maintaining a detailed memory of a scene within working memory may require the hippocampus, a brain structure better known for its role in long-term memory. We show that the hippocampus is behaviorally and functionally critical for configural-relational (CR) maintenance by orchestrating the synchrony of occipital and temporal brain regions in the theta-frequency range. Using magnetoencephalography in healthy adults and patients with bilateral hippocampal sclerosis, we distinguish this hippocampus-dependent theta-network from one that is independent of the hippocampus and used for non-CR scene maintenance. This non-CR theta-network involved frontal and parietal brain regions. We also show that the functional and topographical dissociation between these two networks cannot be accounted for by perceptual difficulty or the amount of information to be maintained ("load"). Also, we confirm in healthy adults that active maintenance of the CR arrangement of objects within a scene is impaired by task-interference during the delay in a manner akin to working-memory maintenance processes. Together, these findings demand reconsideration of the classical functional-anatomical distinctions between long- and short-term memory.
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