What Are the Symptoms of Damage to the Hippocampus?

The hippocampus is responsible for the formation of long-term and spatial memories.
Damage to the hippocampus may result in amnesia.
Prolonged stress may eventually cause damage to the hippocampus.
Temporal lobe epilepsy usually involves the hippocampus.
Article Details
  • Written By: Jeremy Laukkonen
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 18 September 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article

The limbic area of the brain, known as the hippocampus, is responsible for a number of functions, such as the formation of long-term and spatial memories. When this part of the brain is damaged, any of these functions may be impaired. One symptom of damage to the hippocampus is amnesia, the loss of some portion of the memory. Hippocampus damage can also lead to poor impulse control, hyperactivity, and difficulty with spatial navigation or memory.

Damage to the hippocampus may occur in a number of different ways. One common way this area of the brain is damaged is through Alzheimer's disease, which often affects the hippocampus early in the progression of the disease. Since the damage may affect long-term memories that are many years old, this may explain why many Alzheimer's patients often remember their childhoods, while simultaneously forgetting younger family members and more recent events.

In addition to the formation of long-term memories, the hippocampus is typically responsible for creating new spatial memories. This includes things like learning how to successfully navigate from one place to another and knowledge retention. If this part of the brain is damaged, a person may becoming lost in previously familiar environments or be unable to learn new directions.

Ad

Epilepsy, which is a condition that typically involves the uncontrolled firing of neurons within the brain, may also damage the hippocampus. Temporal lobe epilepsy, the form that usually involves the hippocampus, may physically scar that area of the brain. This scarring can provide physical evidence of damage, in addition to causing a loss of memory or spatial awareness.

Encephalitis is a condition that involves the inflammation of the brain, while hypoxia indicates a lack of oxygen supply. Either of these conditions can cause extensive damage to the hippocampus in addition to various other areas of the brain. It may also be possible for stress to adversely affect the hippocampus. Any of these may potentially cause symptoms related to memory or spatial awareness.

Schizophrenia is another condition that may be associated with hippocampus damage. While those suffering from schizophrenia typically exhibit a number of different abnormalities in brain structure, an undersized hippocampus is common. This may be developmental rather than a result of actual tissue damage, though in some cases, prolonged stress at extreme levels can cause this area of the brain to atrophy to some extent. Prolonged stress may be an issue with those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other similar conditions.

Ad

More from Wisegeek

You might also Like

Discuss this Article

anon320614
Post 5

If the hippocampus was damaged, would a person be able to have conversation or not? And if they could, would they remember soon after?

anon317278
Post 4

I fell off a roof, landing on my feet in September 2007. I landed hard enough to crush my L-1 vertebra. In January 2010, I started having the classic symptoms of simple partial seizures as well as memory problems, losing direction etc. Nothing shows up on EEG testing. Anyone else having these problems? Anyone out there who could help me? I have seen five neurologists and two psychiatrists, without much relief.

Mor
Post 3

@irontoenail - That sounds like good advice, particularly when you read the part of the article that informs you that damage can occur from the effects of stress!

I mean, we've all heard the stories about people put under too much stress who "snap" and have some kind of psychotic episode, but I had no idea that it involved actual brain damage.

It makes me glad, though, that people these days recognize PTSD as a real medical condition, rather than as just a weakness, because it has actual physical effects on the brain.

irontoenail
Post 2

@pastanaga - Unfortunately, there's not always anything you can do. It's the same with cancer. You can do everything right, eat healthy, exercise and so forth and still succumb to cancer.

Or you might suffer from physical damage to your hippocampus and memory and have to live with that. I think people should be more concerned with cherishing what they have, rather than trying to hold onto it. Do what is reasonable and leave the rest to life.

pastanaga
Post 1

I think having to watch a family member deteriorate from Alzheimer's is one of the worst things that modern life involves. It seems almost inevitable that people will get it eventually, and it's such a stark reminder of how much of ourselves is contained in nothing so much as a bit of meat that sits in our skull.

My grandfather had this condition and it wasn't even the fact that he eventually couldn't remember any of us or that he reverted to being like a child. Children can obey simple instructions and hold conversations. My grandfather got to the point where he was so confused all the time, and so frightened by his confusion, that he needed round the clock care.

It made me swear to myself that I would do my utmost to take care of my brain and to try and see to it that I never lost function like that.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously

Login

username
password
forgot password?

Register

username
password
confirm
email