The term hippocampus came from Latin, which means 'seahorse.' It is located under the cerebral cortex in the allocortex, but for primates, it is in the medial temporal lobe.
Humans and other mammals have two hippocampi on each side of the brain. Hippocampus is a significant component in the limbic system that plays a vital role in information processing turning short-term memory into long-term memory, as well as spatial memory that enables navigation.
How does the hippocampus affects body functions?
There are various theories that explain the role of the hippocampus in different body functions. One of these theories is the behavioral inhibition theory, which suggests that those with damage in the hippocampus tend to be hyperactive and have difficulty in learning.
Another theory explains the relationship of the hippocampus to memory. This theory was derived from the report of American neurosurgeon William Beecher Scoville and British-Canadian neuropsychologist Brenda Milner in which their patient suffered anterograde amnesia and partial retrograde amnesia as a result of surgical destruction to the hippocampus when trying to relieve the patient's epileptic seizures.
Third, the spatial theory of hippocampal function suggests that the hippocampus plays an important role in spatial coding. In an experiment, researchers found that the neurons they discovered in the hippocampus of the rats appeared to show activity related to the location of the rat and its environment. There is now almost universal agreement that somehow, the hippocampus is like a cognitive map.
Later research focused on the two main views of the hippocampus as being split between memory and spatial function. Some studies suggest that the role of the hippocampus encompasses both the organization of experience through mental mapping and the directional behavior that involves all areas of cognition, which incorporates both memory and spatial perspectives.
In that sense, it relates to the purposive behaviorism from the original goal of E.C. Tolman of identifying the complex mechanisms of cognition and the purposes of guided behavior.
Moreover, the spiking activity of the neurons in the hippocampus is associated with spatially, which suggests that memory and planning evolved from mechanisms of navigation and the neuronal algorithms were the same.
Hippocampus and the Approach-Avoidance Processing
There are many studies that used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in understanding the role of the hippocampus to behavior and body functions. Researchers found that under the approach-avoidance conflict processing, the anterior hippocampus is seen to be involved in making decisions.
Approach-avoidance conflict happens when the situation can either be rewarding or punishing and in which decision-making is associated with anxiety. Overall fMRI findings suggest that the anterior hippocampus is sensitive to conflict and that it may play an important role in the cortical and subcortical network, which is essential in decision-making during uncertain times.
A review of related literature on studies regarding approach-avoidance conflict shows that the hippocampus is greatly involved in conflict tasks. The authors believe that there is a challenge to understand how conflict processing can relate to the functions of memory and spatial recognition and that all these functions do not need to be mutually exclusive.
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