I've heard that severe damage to the hippocampus results in the inability to form new memories but still remember old ones. Am I mistaking something? Is the hippocampus responsible for storing memories, creating memories or both?


1 Answer 1


It's fair to say storing new memories is an important function of the hippocampus. The most famous example is the case of HM https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Molaison, possibly that's where you heard this?

The hippocampus is also heavily involved in navigation, so memory is not the only thing it does, and there are memory systems that don't seem to involve the hippocampus (for example, working memory and motor skill learning. There's some ongoing discussion around how best to classify different kinds of memory, to be able to say more specifically which kinds belong to this hippocampus system). So as always, the story is complicated. But HM's story shows that "severe damage to the hippocampus can result in the inability to form new memories, but still leave old ones intact" is a fair-enough claim.

  • $\begingroup$ So we know that hippocampus creates memories but we don't know where memories are stored? I thought the hippocampus was like a hard drive? Maybe it's complicated? $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 14:41
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    $\begingroup$ @NovaliumCompany It's clear that not all memories are stored in the hippocampus. The general simplified model is that (some types of) memories stored in hippocampus are 'consolidated' in neocortex over time; however, that doesn't mean the hippocampus stops being involved in memory. More generally, the brain is interconnected enough that it rarely makes sense to take a single part of it and say "Area X does Y and only area X does Y"; usually when neuroscientists say "Area X does Y" what they mean is "Without Area X, capability for Y goes away/is reduced." $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ Got it. Thanks. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 15, 2019 at 15:49

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