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What Is Hippocampus? Describe Its Roles And Structure In The Brain

Referencing Styles : MLA | Pages : 1


The word Hippocampus has its origin from a Greek word hippokampus that means Seahorse. Hippos mean horse and kampos mean sea monsters. It is one of the most important parts of the brain. Brain does not refer to the human brains only but the brains of all vertebrates. This is found in the interior folds of the brain, specifically towards the lower middle section of the brain that is known as the temporal lobe. Hippocampus is a very renowned part of the brain that has been known by the humans for more than four centuries and it is that part on which mist of the research and studies have been done. Usually the humans and all other mammals have two hippocampi in each side. These hippocampi are located right above each of the years and a little bit inside the head, which is about one and half inches inside the head. The hippocampus is a part of the limbic system and it plays an important part in preserving memories. All information, from the short term to the long term is consolidated by the hippocampus and it also plays an important role in terms of spatial memory and helps in maintaining navigational information. It also contributes in emotions and learning. The hippocampus can be find below the cerebral cortex, which is inside the allocortex and it primates towards the lower middle temporal lobe. Any damage to this part of the brain can result in memory loss and hypoxia (oxygen starvation), medial temporal lobe epilepsy and encephalitis. It is one of the area of the brain that get damaged very easily and comes first in position to get damaged.

Structure of Hippocampus

The hippocampus is composed of two important parts namely the hippocampus proper and the dentate gyrus. The hippocampus receives input from the brain and thereafter sends output to the brain through an important structure, which is termed as the entorhinal cortex. The formation of the hippocampus comprises of several sub-regions like the cornu ammonis, the gyrus, the dentate and subiculum. When a cross section of the hippocampus is being considered it can be seen that the dentate gyrus consists of four layers of cells – the molecular layer, the inner molecular layer, granular layer and the hilus. The hippocampus can be generally considered as a part of the gray matter tissue that elevates from the base of the lateral ventricle around the region of the temporal horn. This part or more specifically the ridge can be seen as a fold inwards of the archicortex and into the temporal lobe in the lower middle position. The hippocampus can be viewed in dissections and the cortex also thins from six layers to about three or four layers composing the hippocampus. The hippocampus looks like the shape of curved tube that can be compared to the shape of a sea horse or a ram’s horn. The hippocampal subfields include Cornu Ammonis that is divided as CA1, CA2, CA3 and CA4. These sub regions are connected to each other by two important neural circuits – namely the trisynaptic circuit and the monosynaptic circuit. Information is forwarded by the trisynaptic circuit to the dentate gyrus from entorhinal cortex through the perforant path. The information then travels towards the CA3 from the dentate gyrus with the help of mossy fibre pathways. The information then ultimately flows from the CA3 to CA1 along axon bundles called as Schaffer collaterals. The dentate gyrus and CA3 is bypassed by the monosynaptic input, which helps in transmitting information from entorhinal cortex to CA1, directly. There are three important layers of the Cornu Ammonis that uses the pyramidal cells. Pyramidal cells are neurons along with dendrites that spread and give the body of the cell a triangular appearance. These pyramidal cells are referred to as the excitatory cells. Most of the excitatory recurrent collateral network is located around the CA3 region that acts as its largest input source. The input received by the hippocampus is received from the neurotransmitter systems that include norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine systems. It comes from the entorhinal cortex through perforant path. The entorhinal cortex is well connected with several cortical and subcortical structures and also with the brainstem. It receives information from the cholinergic input that regulates the psychological state. The regions of the hippocampus can be divided into - dorsal, ventral and intermediate hippocampus and each of these serves different functions.

Role of Hippocampus

Hippocampus plays an important role in the life of all the humans and mammals -  

  1. It helps the human process and retrieves memories like the spatial memory and the declarative memory.  It is a sort of a device that is being used by the brain in order to map a layout of the environment.
  2. Declarative memories are those memories that are related to events and facts. It helps in memorizations of speeches, lines and other textual implications. The hippocampus supports rapid learning. The learning process is supported as the hippocampus reduces the interference among the similar memories.  
  3. Spatial memories on the other hand help in memorizing different routes and paths. It basically helps in navigation. These memories are usually located in the right side of the brain.
  4. It is considered to have an index of a distributed code. It helps in binding the elements of the experience and not the entire experience.
  5. It also helps in storing both short term as well as long term memories.
  6. It is one of the very few places where new nerve cells are generated.
  7. The anterior portion of the hippocampus is connected to the amygdala and it helps in the processing and regulation of emotion and stress. The posterior part on the other hand is connected to the retrospenial and posterior parietal cortices, which helps in processing cognitive and spatial information.
  8. Any damage in hippocampus may lead to amnesia, Alzheimer disease, stress and depression, less cell generating capacity, reduced dendritic branches, schizophrenia and other psychiatric diseases.


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