Hippocampus Lesson for Kids: Definition & Function

Instructor: Wendy McDougal

Wendy has taught high school Biology and has a master's degree in education.

The hippocampus is a special structure found deep within the brain. It has a very important job involving memories. What does the hippocampus do? Read more to find out.

How's Your Memory?

Do you remember what you were doing five minutes ago? Easy, right? How about this one: What did you have for breakfast last week? Now see if you can answer this question: Do you have memories from several years ago, like a special event or an important day? The answer is most likely, yes!

How much can you remember?
Thinking

It is possible to recall memories both old and new because of a special structure tucked deep into your brain. This structure is called the hippocampus, and it has a very important job when it comes to your memories. What, exactly does the hippocampus do, and why does it sound like an animal? Join us as we take a closer look.

An Organ to Remember

Although it sounds like a place for hippos to attend college, the hippocampus is actually a small organ located deep in the folds of the brain. Its name comes from the Greek word hippokampus, which literally means ''seahorse.'' Why is it named this way? Because its shape strongly resembles, you guessed it: a seahorse.

The hippocampus isn't exactly a part of the gray, wrinkled, folded brain itself. Instead, it belongs to a region called the limbic system. The limbic system is a grouping of structures tucked deep down within the brain folds. This system is in charge of many very important jobs, including controlling emotion and memory. The job of the hippocampus makes it possible for us to hold tight to important memories from the past.

Location of the hippocampus deep within the brain
hippocampus

More specifically, the hippocampus takes our short-term memories and files them away permanently in long-term storage. This way, you can remember more than what you just did today. Does this remind you of anything? Most likely you are thinking of a computer. When you keyboard words, the computer stores that information temporarily. However, by hitting ''Save'' and storing them in a file, you can keep those words forever. The hippocampus is like the ''Save'' button on the computer, tucking away your memory files.

The hippocampus is like a computer, storing long-term memories.
computer

Memories with Emotions Attached

Often, we have memories that make us feel a strong emotion. For example, you might catch a whiff of a certain smell and suddenly be transported to the memory attached to it. Perhaps you went on an amazing vacation to the beach. Now, every time you smell the ocean breeze, you think of that trip. Why are these types of memories so vivid?

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support