Hippocampus

Hippocampus
The hippocampus (red), a limbic system structure, is responsible for long-term memory. Credit: Sciepro/Getty Images

Hippocampus

The hippocampus is the part of the brain that is involved in forming, organizing, and storing memories. It is a limbic system structure that is particularly important in forming new memories and connecting emotions and senses, such as smell and sound, to memories. The hippocampus is a horseshoe shaped paired structure, with one section located in the left brain hemisphere and the other in the right hemisphere.

The hippocampus is found in the brain's temporal lobes and acts as a memory indexer by sending memories out to the appropriate part of the cerebral hemisphere for long-term storage and retrieving them when necessary.

Function

The hippocampus is involved in several functions of the body including:

  • Consolidation of New Memories
  • Emotional Responses
  • Navigation
  • Spatial Orientation

The hippocampus is linked to cognitive ability and memory retention. People who experience damage to this area of the brain have difficulty recalling events. As a result, the hippocampus has been the focus of attention for the medical community as it relates to memory disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, epilepsy, and Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's disease, for example, damages the hippocampus. Studies have shown that Alzheimer's patients who maintain their cognitive ability have a larger hippocampus than those with dementia.

Chronic seizures, as experienced by individuals with epilepsy, also damage the hippocampus causing amnesia and other memory related problems.

Location

Directionally, the hippocampus is located within the temporal lobes, adjacent to the amygdala.

Images

    More Information

    For additional information on the hippocampus, see:

    Divisions of the Brain

    • Forebrain - encompasses the cerebral cortex and brain lobes.
    • Midbrain - connects the forebrain to the hindbrain.
    • Hindbrain - regulates autonomic functions and coordinates movement.