Hippocampus Essay

Throughout our life we experience events that are worthy of remembering, we have many things that happen in which we wish to never forget. But how do we store these memories, where do they go, what makes us remember? Throughout this paper you will learn about the Hippocampus a part of the brain that forms, and stores memories from our life. Hippocampus is a part of the brain that’s involved in memory forming, organizing, and storing. 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 (Buzsaki, Gyorgy).

The hippocampus is a horseshoe shaped paired structure that is located within the temporal lobes, and adjacent to the amygdale, there is one on each side of the brain; research has shown that the hippocampus contains cognitive maps in humans. There are place cells in this section of the brain. The patterns of activation of these cells overlap to form mental maps within the hippocampus. The hippocampus’ right side is more oriented toward responding to spatial aspects, whereas the left side is associated with other context information.

The hippocampus acts as a memory index by sending memories out to the appropriate part of the cerebral hemisphere for long-term storage and retrieving them when necessary. The hippocampus is involved in many different functions of the body such as, Consolidation of New Memories, Emotional Responses, Navigation, and Spatial Orientation (Bailey, Regina). It is sometimes grouped with the other nearby structures including the denate gyrus and called the “hippocampal formation. ” The hippocampus is critical for the formation of new autobiographical and fact memories.

It can also function as a memory “gateway” where new memories pass before entering permanent storage in the brain. Hippocampal damage can result in anterograde amnesia which is loss of the ability to form new memories, although the old memories are safe from loss. So someone who has an injury to the hippocampus may have good memories of there childhood and the years before the injury, but almost no memory of anything that has happened since. Some memories, like the memory for a new skill or habit, can sometimes be formed even without the hippocampus.

A current research project is to determine exactly what kinds of learning and memory can survive hippocampal damage, and how these kinds of learning can be used to guide rehabilitation. The hippocampus is very sensitive to reductions in oxygen level in the body. So periods of oxygen deprivation which are not fatal may nonetheless result in damage to the hippocampus. This could happen during a heart attack, respiratory failure, sleep apnea, carbon monoxide poisoning, and near-drowning. Hippocampus is also a common focus in epilepsy, and can be damaged through chronic seizures.

It also is sometimes damaged in diseases like herpes encephalitis, and is one of the first brain areas to show damage in Alzheimer’s disease (Myers, Catherine E. ). Most physiological studies on the hippocampus have been performed in rodents and gave rise to the spatial navigation theory. This, however, does not reflect a species difference (Gyorgy Buzsak). Several studies have shed new light on the contribution of the hippocampus to memory. Many experiments have shown that the hippocampus is “Critical to learning and remembering relationships that characterize spatial layouts”.

Not only is the hippocampus filing away memories, but it is also connecting them with other related memories and giving the memories a meaning. Meaning that the hippocampus may be connecting the memory of your first day of school with your surrounding, the smells and sounds that were going on at the same time. It is shown in multiple researches that the Hippocampus is constantly developing throughout life. It begins development during the prenatal stage of life. (Howard Eichenbaum). Navigation is another area, where hippocampus is involved.

Hippocampus has ‘place cells’, that are responsible for this function. According to one theory, the hippocampus may act as a cognitive map that helps in navigation. This is substantiated with the fact that people with weak hippocampus lack spatial memory and may forget about where they have been or where to go. This is why, it is said that a strong and intact hippocampus is required for spatial navigation tasks (Nair, Sonia). In memory formation the hippocampus acts as a kind of intermediate memory for the brain.

In rest phases, such as during sleep, information that was previously taken in is consolidated and passed on to other regions of the brain for final storage. This hippocampal function is linked to rhythms. The development of these rhythms depends on organized interaction between multitudes of nerve cells. Research in recent years demonstrated that suppression or intensification of brain oscillations can impair or improve learning (Nikolaus Maier). Physical activity has been known to improve cognitive function in humans and rodents.

A study done by Griffin EW, Mullally S, Foley C, Warmington SA, O’Mara SM, and Kelly AM shows that Aerobic exercise does improve the function of the Hippocampus(“Supplemental Content. “). Many parts of the brain are involved in the complex process of encoding memories. How each structure contributes to this process is not fully known. Though it is known that there are many different types of memories: conscious memories such as your first day of school, and non-conscious memories such as knowing how to ride a bike. It is also known that the hippocampus helps form conscious memories (Myers, Catherine E. ).