The human hippocampus and its significance in neuropsychology and disease

Richard A. Armstrong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article discusses the structure, anatomical connections, and functions of the hippocampus (HC) of the human brain and its significance in neuropsychology and disease. The HC is concerned with the analysis of highly abstract data derived from all sensory systems but its specific role remains controversial. Hence, there have been three major theories concerning its function, viz., the memory theory, the spatial theory, and the behavioral inhibition system (BIS) theory. The memory theory has its origin in the surgical destruction of the HC, which results in severe anterograde and partial retrograde amnesia. The spatial theory has its origin in the observation that neurons in the HC of animals show activity related to their location within the environment. By contrast, the behavioral inhibition theory suggests that the HC acts as a ‘comparator’, i.e., it compares current sensory events with expected or predicted events. If a set of expectations continues to be verified then no alteration of behavior occurs. If, however, a ‘mismatch’ is detected then the HC intervenes by initiating appropriate action by active inhibition of current motor programs and initiation of new data gathering. Understanding the anatomical connections of the hippocampus may lead to a greater understanding of memory, spatial orientation, and states of anxiety in humans. In addition, HC damage is a feature of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), Pick’s disease (PiD), and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) and understanding HC function may help to explain the development of clinical dementia in these disorders.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Medical and Biological Frontiers
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2014


  • hippocampus
  • septal-hippocampal system
  • behavioural inhibition theory
  • comparator
  • anxiety
  • neurodegenerative disease


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