Description: Typically when the specific areas of the brain are described and their role in general functioning discussed (at least at the introductory course level) we describe brain areas in what might be called “flat terms”. That’s is, we talk about the behaviours or body fictions that seem to be associated with that area of the brain (like saying the occipital lobes are involved in visual information processing). We sometimes put thing together a bit by noting that while visual inputs are processed in one area of the brain emotional responses are driven from another (the limbic system). What is not typically presented in any detail at the introductory course level is how the brain functions holistically from moment to moment. For example, you may have heard about how the hippocampus has connections (called projections) to the whole array of “higher” areas of the brain referred to as the cortex. We talk about this when discussing how memories are distributed through the brain by the hippocampus, for example. The article linked below talks about research that adds an important layer or level to our understanding of the role of the hippocampus that leads to that are of the brain sometimes being referred to as the “heart” of the brain because of the potential roles played by the low frequency (1 hz) pulses that are generated in the hippocampus and which may play an important role in brain-wide connectivity important for managing sensory information processing. Read the article linked below to find out about this potential critical role played by the hippocampus and the implications of understanding this role for understanding, predicting and perhaps better managing disorders like Alzheimer’s.
Source: New functions of hippocampus unveiled: Scientists achieve major breakthrough in untangling mysteries of the brain, ScienceDaily,
Date: September 29, 2017
Photo Credit: DECADE3D/IstockPhoto
Links: Article Link — https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170929093215.htm
So it may be that the low frequency activity of the hippocampus may drive the higher areas of the cortex and facilitate complex processing related to memory, attention, perception, cognition, language and consciousness as well as the consolidation of learning and memory during deep sleep (leading the hippocampus as the “heart of the brain” observation). Brain-wide connectivity is clearly an important part of how complex processing occurs and the low frequency rhythms driven by the hippocampus may play an important role in how this inter-connectivity works. The thalamus also plays a similar role in initiating and coordinating brain-wide neural interactions. The importance of understanding these brain-wide interactions is underscored by the NIH Human Connectome Project initiative launched in 2010 to coordinate the compilation of the complex datasets necessary to explore issues of brain-wide connectivity. As work I this area expands it will need to be added to our basic (and this our introductory course) understandings of how the human brain functions.
Questions for Discussion:
- What sorts of things does the hippocampus do for us in terms of our brain functioning?
- How do location specific discussions of brain area function differ from those discussing brain-wide activation?
- What might an understanding of the role of low frequency pacing of the hippocampus do for our understanding of brain function that our previous understanding of what the hippocampus does not?
References (Read Further):
Russell W. Chan, Alex T. L. Leong, Leon C. Ho, Patrick P. Gao, Eddie C. Wong, Celia M. Dong, Xunda Wang, Jufang He, Ying-Shing Chan, Lee Wei Lim, Ed X. Wu. Low-frequency hippocampal–cortical activity drives brain-wide resting-state functional MRI connectivity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2017; 114 (33): E6972 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1703309114 http://www.pnas.org/content/114/33/E6972.full
The Human Connectome Project http://www.humanconnectomeproject.org/ or https://www.neuroscienceblueprint.nih.gov/connectome/
Redish, A. D., & Touretzky, D. S. (1997). Cognitive maps beyond the hippocampus. Hippocampus, 7(1), 15-35. http://redishlab.neuroscience.umn.edu/papers/1997%20HC.pdf