Hippocampus: Definition, Function & Location

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  • 0:01 The Hippocampus and…
  • 0:52 Role of the…
  • 1:28 Brain Damage
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kelly Robson

Kelly has taught High School Science and Applied Communications. She holds an Education Specialist Degree in Ed. Leadership.

The hippocampus plays a very important role in storing our memories and connecting them to our emotions, among other roles. This lesson explains all the roles of the hippocampus and its structure in the brain.

The Hippocampus and Limbic System

The hippocampus is a part of the limbic system. The limbic system is the area in the brain that is associated with memory, emotions, and motivation. The limbic system is located just above the brain stem and below the cortex. The hippocampus itself is highly involved with our memories.

The limbic system plays a huge part in our survival roles. It is responsible for our fight or flight responses. This is when a person feels like he is in danger and either needs to fight his way out or run away from the situation. The limbic system also gives us that 'gut feeling.' The limbic system, including the hippocampus, is located in a very protected area of the brain.

The hippocampus is a horseshoe-shaped structure. There are actually two pieces that are mirrored in pairs. One of the pairs is located in the right hemisphere. Its mirrored other half of the horseshoe is located in the left hemisphere.

The Role of the Hippocampus in Memory

The hippocampus plays a very important role in our memories. It attaches memories to the emotions and senses that go with them. For instance, it will take a memory of being happy and calm while in a field and link it with the smell of the flowers. It will associate both the feeling of being happy and the sense of smell to the memory of being in a field.

Once the emotions and senses are attached, the hippocampus sends the memory off to be stored. It will actually file the memory in the appropriate part of the cerebral cortex. Here the memory will be put in long term storage, where it can later be retrieved.

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