The hippocampus, Latin for seahorse, 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. 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, which includes all past knowledge and experiences. In particular, it seems to play a major role in declarative memory, the type of memory involving things that can be purposely recalled, such as facts or events.
It is not involved with short-term memory and procedural memory types (memory of how to do motor actions, like walking). These are primarily handled by the cortex and the cerebellum.
Those that have lost function or had removed major portions of the limbic system but still have the hippocampus, have only long-term memory and cannot record any new memories or functions.
Functions OF Hippocampus
The hippocampus is involved in several functions of the body including:
- Formation of long term memories
- Consolidation of New Memories
- Emotional Responses
- Spatial Orientation and Navigation
It is linked to cognitive ability and memory retention. People who experience damage to this area of the brain have difficulty recalling events.
Associated Cognitive Disorders
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 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 it causing amnesia and other memory related problems.