Relevance of the Hippocampus

The hippocampus is primarily responsible for our ability to learn and remember. It sits deep inside our brain and is the switch point that decides whether experiences or what we have learned are stored. This area is also called ´Tor to Erinnerung´. Most fascinating is that the hippocampus is the only region of the brain where new nerve cells can be formed. Unfortunately, not all of these young nerve cells survive, they need a lot of support in the early phases to have the chance to become fully functional nerve cells after weeks or months. The cells that help the neurons survive and are, so to speak, the nursing and care personnel are called glial cells. Glial cells provide suitable nutrition and clean the environment of the nerve cells. However, glial cells in turn have to have a healthy environment and can only perform perfect “care work” for the nerve cells if they also experience good conditions. Therefore, healthy sleep  and a  healthy, nutrient-rich diet  are of immense importance, so that this particular brain region can regenerate. (“The hippocampus has a ‘self-healing programme’ which we must activate or which should not be hindered by our way of life” – Praxis Dr. Karner).

But of course, it is the totality of positive stimuli that causes nerve cells to develop and grow: sufficient physical activity, meaning in life, social contacts and mindfulness (avoidance of permanent stress).

But on the other hand, the hippocampus can even shrink due to an unfavourable lifestyle: permanent stress, anxiety, depression, overweight and untreated diabetes, and even lack of exercise and nutrition with processed products and few nutrients. Each of these negative risk factors is associated with a smaller hippocampus and an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. A larger hippocampus with well supplied nerve cells can therefore protect us from Alzheimer’s dementia and can help to ensure that we are still mentally fit at an advanced age. Prevention is also an essential factor here!

Quelle: Blausen.com staff (2014). “Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014” ( CC BY 3.0)

The hippocampus is the first region damaged by dementia (as in Alzheimer’ s disease) usually followed by regions in the cerebral cortex. This of course also impairs the regeneration of nerve cells. As long as only the hippocampus is affected, there is hope that self-healing can still be initiated, but as soon as other brain regions are affected, this will no longer be possible and there can only be a hope of stopping the progression of dementia. This of course means that it is extremely important to diagnose as early as possible in order to stop the damage or, in the best case, reverse it.


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