Chapter

Introduction: The Hippocampus in the Clinical Neurosciences

Thorsten Bartsch

in The Clinical Neurobiology of the Hippocampus

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199592388
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199949922 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199592388.003.0001
Introduction: The Hippocampus in the Clinical Neurosciences

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The hippocampus is one of the most studied structures in the human brain and plays a pivotal role in human memory and cognition. The anatomy of this allocortical and phylogenetically old structure was first described over 400 years ago but its function remained enigmatic until the dawn of the modern neurosciences. In neurobiological research, the hippocampus serves as a model for studying the general properties of the nervous system because of the peculiarities in this brain region’s anatomy. Eminent functional milestones of brain function, such as the mechanisms of synaptic plasticity as correlates of learning (long-term potentiation), the place–cell system, and the formation of new neuronal cells in the adult hippocampus were discovered in the hippocampus. The function of the hippocampus is affected in various neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases which is a reflection of certain pathophysiological characteristics, such as its vulnerability to ischaemia, metabolic and behavioural stress, as well as its susceptibility to epileptogenic mechanisms. The clinical spectrum of hippocampal dysfunction encompasses clinical conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, temporal lobe epilepsy, ischaemia, limbic encephalitis, neurodevelopmental disorders, depression, and schizophrenia. Functional and structural imaging of the hippocampus has become an important surrogate marker for defining clinical states. The mechanisms of neuronal plasticity in the hippocampus in health and disease have only begun to be unravelled, but may open the door for therapeutic intervention in Alzheimer’s disease, neuropsychiatric diseases, and rehabilitative medicine.

Keywords: hippocampus; memory; vulnerability; ageing; learning; plasticity

Chapter.  6608 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Neuroscience

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