Hippocampus

Hippocampus is a major component of the brain of humans and other vertebrates. Humans and other mammals have two hippocampi, one in each side of the brain.

The hippocampus is part of the limbic system, and plays important roles in the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory, and in spatial memory that enables navigation. The hippocampus is located in the allocortex, with neural projections into the neocortex in humans, as well as primates.

The hippocampus can be seen as a ridge of gray matter tissue, elevating from the floor of each lateral ventricle in the region of the inferior or temporal horn.

This ridge can also be seen as an inward fold of the archicortex into the medial temporal lobe. The hippocampus can only be seen in dissections as it is concealed by the parahippocampal gyrus. The cortex thins from six layers to the three or four layers that make up the hippocampus.

Sometimes the hippocampus is said to include the dentate gyrus and the subiculum. Some references include the dentate gyrus and the subiculum in the hippocampal formation, and others also include the presubiculum, parasubiculum, and entorhinal cortex.

The neural layout and pathways within the hippocampal formation are very similar in all mammals.

Areas of the hippocampus are shown to be functionally and anatomically distinct. The dorsal hippocampus (DH), ventral hippocampus (VH) and intermediate hippocampus serve different functions, project with differing pathways, and have varying degrees of place cells.

The dorsal hippocampus serves for spatial memory, verbal memory, and learning of conceptual information. Using the radial arm maze, lesions in the DH were shown to cause spatial memory impairment while VH lesions did not. Its projecting pathways include the medial septal nucleus and supramammillary nucleus

In Alzheimer’s disease, the hippocampus is one of the first regions of the brain to suffer damage; short-term memory loss and disorientation are included among the early symptoms.

Damage to the hippocampus can also result from oxygen starvation (hypoxia), encephalitis, or medial temporal lobe epilepsy. People with extensive, bilateral hippocampal damage may experience anterograde amnesia: the inability to form and retain new memories.

Since different neuronal cell types are neatly organized into layers in the hippocampus, it has frequently been used as a model system for studying neurophysiology.

The form of neural plasticity known as long-term potentiation (LTP) was initially discovered to occur in the hippocampus and has often been studied in this structure. LTP is widely believed to be one of the main neural mechanisms by which memories are stored in the brain.

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