(named after its resemblance to the seahorse, from the Greek hippos meaning “horse” and kampos meaning “sea monster”) is a major component of the brain. It belongs to the limbic system.
Humans have two hippocampi, one in each side of the brain. The hippocampus is located under the cerebral cortex.
Hippocampus plays important roles in the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory and spatial navigation.
The hippocampal formation is a brain structure integrally involved in episodic memory, spatial navigation, cognition and stress responsiveness. Structural abnormalities in hippocampal volume and shape are found in several common neuropsychiatric disorders. To identify the genetic underpinnings of hippocampal structure here we perform a genome-wide association study (GWAS) of 33,536 individuals and discover six independent loci significantly associated with hippocampal volume, four of them novel. Of the novel loci, three lie within genes (ASTN2, DPP4 and MAST4) and one is found 200 kb upstream of SHH. A hippocampal subfield analysis shows that a locus within the MSRB3 gene shows evidence of a localized effect along the dentate gyrus, subiculum, CA1 and fissure. Further, we show that genetic variants associated with decreased hippocampal volume are also associated with increased risk for Alzheimer's disease (rg=-0.155). Our findings suggest novel biological pathways through which human genetic variation influences hippocampal volume and risk for neuropsychiatric illness 1).
In Alzheimer's disease, the hippocampus is one of the first regions of the brain to suffer damage; memory loss and disorientation are included among the early symptoms. Damage to the hippocampus can also result from oxygen starvation (hypoxia), encephalitis, or medial temporal lobe epilepsy. People with extensive, bilateral hippocampal damage may experience anterograde amnesia—the inability to form or retain new memories.
Since different neuronal cell types are neatly organized into layers in the hippocampus, it has frequently been used as a model system for studying neurophysiology. The form of neural plasticity known as long-term potentiation (LTP) was first discovered to occur in the hippocampus and has often been studied in this structure. LTP is widely believed to be one of the main neural mechanisms by which memory is stored in the brain.
Resection of the hippocampus can cause verbal memory decline, especially in the pediatric population. Thus, preservation of the hippocampus can be crucial for the quality of life of children with intractable temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) who are candidates for epilepsy surgery. We investigated techniques that determine whether the hippocampus is part of the epileptogenic zone and the outcomes of pediatric surgery aimed to spare the hippocampus.
We accessed data of children with normal hippocampus on MRI, who underwent surgery for medically refractory TLE. To identify epileptogenic areas, electrocorticography was performed in patients with space occupying lesions adjacent to the hippocampus, and long term invasive monitoring in patients with nonlesional TLE. Postoperative seizure control was classified according to Engel I-IV; Class I indicates seizure-free.
Eleven females and 11 males met study inclusion criteria; the mean age at surgery was 11.3 years. Cortical and hippocampal electrocorticography was performed in 15 patients and long term invasive hippocampal monitoring in seven. The hippocampus was preserved in 16 patients (73%) while hippocampectomy was performed in 6 (27%). At the end of a mean follow-up of 3.5 years, 94% (15/16) of the patients who did not undergo hippocampectomy were classified as Engel I, compared to 50% (3/6) who underwent hippocampectomy.
Sparing the hippocampus in temporal lobe epilepsy surgery is possible with excellent seizure outcome, while using the proper intraoperative technique 2).
Duvernoy HM: The Human Hippocampus: Functional Anatomy, Vascularization and Serial Sections With MRI,ed 3. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2005.