What’s a hippocampus?


This is your brain. This is the hippocampus in your brain.

Without the hippocampus, we wouldn’t remember much. Our magazine’s namesake refers to a portion of the brain where long-term memories are formed. While our debut issue is being worked on behind the scenes, we thought we’d provide a conversation starter with these fun facts:

  • While we’re certain humans have always had a hippocampus as long as we can remember, it was discovered in 1564.
  • You might first imagine a smiley hippopotamus when you hear the word hippocampus. But, this region of the brain gets its name from its shape—a seahorse. Hippocampus is the Greek word for “seahorse.”
  • Other medical sources say the hippocampus is shaped like a peninsula. We like seahorse better. Maybe because they are pretty. But maybe because the male seahorse can give birth.
  • If your hippocampus were removed, you would still have short-term memories. You just wouldn’t be able turn those into long term memories. This is actually a form of amnesia. Hey! Wouldn’t it be cool if you could temporarily remove your hippocampus during trips to Las Vegas? We’re on to something here.
  • The hippocampus, as part of the brain’s limbic system, helps control emotion.
  • The hippocampus is located in the temporal lobe region of the brain and consists mainly of gray matter.
  • The hippocampus is one of the first parts of the brain to suffer damage in Alzheimer’s patients.
  • Hungry, hungry hippo? If you starve your hippocampus of oxygen, you could cause serious damage. Don’t forget to breathe!
  • In the 1970s, researchers thought the hippocampus played a big role in the olfactory bulb—you know, what makes you smell. Interesting, since scents can stir memories…
  • Centaurs aren’t the only part horse mythical creature. The hippocamp has the head and forelimbs of a horse and the rear of a dolphin. I get it. A seahorse! If you think I’m making this up, you can see a mosaic hippocamp in an old Roman bathhouse or a statue of a winged hippocamp in the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

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