A wide range of methods have advanced our understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying human memory function. For decades, the lesion approach served as the gold standard in localizing function and establishing causal relationships between anatomy and behavior. In the past 30 years, a wealth of evidence from neuroimaging (PET and functional MRI) and neurophysiological studies (MEG, scalp EEG, intracranial EEG and single unit recordings) has provided more detailed insights into the functional mechanisms of large-scale neuronal networks that enable memory formation. In addition, methodological advances in our ability to alter brain activity through electrical or magnetic stimulation has offered new insights into the role of such activity in causally modulating memory encoding, consolidation and retrieval. Here we review each of these methodological approaches and their strengths and weaknesses in addressing theoretical issues in memory research.