Unlocking a major secret of the brain: Researchers uncover crucial link between hippocampus and prefrontal cortex

Unlocking a major secret of the brain
Modified from a scan of a plate of "Posterior and inferior cornua of left lateral ventricle exposed from the side" in Gray's Anatomy. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

(Medical Xpress) -- A clue to understanding certain cognitive and mental disorders may involve two parts of the brain which were previously thought to have independent functions, according to a McGill University team of researchers led by Prof. Yogita Chudasama, of the Laboratory of Brain and Behavior, Department of Psychology. The McGill team discovered a critical interaction between two prominent brain areas: the hippocampus, a well-known memory structure made famous by Dr. Brenda Milner’s patient H.M., and the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in decision-making and inhibiting inappropriate behaviours.

“We had always thought that the and the prefrontal cortex functioned independently,” says Prof. Chudasama. “Our latest study provides the first indication that that is not the case.”

The team’s finding, just published in the Journal of Neuroscience, reveals a critical interaction between these two and the control of behavior, and may advance the treatment of some cognitive and including schizophrenia, and depression. The interaction between the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex shows that brain circuits function not just as specific , but are linked together and work as a system.

“Although the prefrontal cortex has long been known to be the driving force that steers our behavior, pushing us to make good decisions and withhold improper actions, it turns out that it can’t do this unless it interacts with the hippocampus,” added Prof. Chudasama. “We found that when we prevented these two structures from communicating with each other, like humans with compulsive disorders, rats persisted with behaviours that were not good for them; they didn’t correct their errant behaviours and could not control their natural urges.

The ability to control impulsive urges or inhibit our actions allows us to interact normally in personal or social situations, and this type of behaviour depends on the normal interaction of the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex. This result provides a means for understanding the neural basis for social and cognitive deficits in disorders of brain and behaviour, such as those with frontotemporal dementia”, concludes Prof. Chudasama.

More information: www.jneurosci.org/content/32/32/10915.full

Related Stories

How we remember each other

Apr 03, 2007

Researchers at McGill University’s Douglas Mental Health University Institute, in collaboration with a French team at the University of Paris, have used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to identify the part of the brain ...

Recommended for you

Researchers unlock mystery of skin's sensory abilities

5 hours ago

Humans' ability to detect the direction of movement of stimuli in their sensory world is critical to survival. Much of this stimuli detection comes from sight and sound, but little is known about how the ...

Tackling neurotransmission precision

Dec 18, 2014

Behind all motor, sensory and memory functions, calcium ions are in the brain, making those functions possible. Yet neuroscientists do not entirely understand how fast calcium ions reach their targets inside ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

TimUK
not rated yet Aug 16, 2012
If the hippocampus, handling episodic operations, is detached from the PFC's historic information then compulsive/irrational behaviour is as I would expect. Good supporting research tho.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.