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Hippocampus

Location:
  • The hippocampus is a member of the limbic system.
  • It is sometimes viewed as an elaboration on the edge of the cerebral cortex.
  • The hippocampus is near the amygdala, another member of the limbic system.
Function:
  • The exact purpose of the hippocampus is not exactly determined. Many different reasons come up in debate over function.
  • Some who have researched the hippocampus would say that its primary function is to form memories. The exact nature of these memories is not known. However, in the case of Henry Gustav Molaison, better known as H.M., who had his hippocampus destroyed in surgery, his memories seemed to be influenced. His early childhood memories remained with him while he lost the ability to form new memories.
  • Others believe that the hippocampus allows for the mind to process spatial ideas. Studies with rats have shown a presence of certain neurons in the hippocampus while visiting a site previously visited. This is evidence of a so-called "cognitive map." The exact nature of this function is also not proven.

Because this man cannot think of a memory of his, one could say his hippocampus may not be functioning properly.
Because this man cannot think of a memory of his, one could say his hippocampus may not be functioning properly.

Illnesses:
  • Due to the importance of the hippocampus to memory, research has linked hippocampal shrinkage to a higher frequency of Alzheimer's Disease.
  • The hippocampus also plays a vital role in stress management. In the case of adults 55 to 80, aerobic exercise can lessen the risk of stress-related illnesses by preserving the hippocampus.

Interesting Fact:
  • The hippocampus is named after its close resemblance to a sea monster that is half horse and half fish. The picture at the bottom of the page shows why the name of "seahorse" had been proposed for the name of the hippocampus.

Further Learning:


external image Hippocampus_and_seahorse.JPG