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

August 15, 2012
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.

Explore further: Filters that reduce 'brain clutter' identified

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

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Chatter in the deep brain spurs empathy in rats

June 23, 2017

It's a classic conundrum: while rushing to get to an important meeting or appointment on time, you spot a stranger in distress. How do you decide whether to stop and help, or continue on your way?

The neural relationship between light and sleep

June 23, 2017

Humans are diurnal animals, meaning that we usually sleep at night and are awake during the day, due at least in part to light or the lack thereof. Light is known to affect sleep indirectly by entraining—modifying the length ...

How pheromones trigger female sexual behavior

June 22, 2017

A study by a group of Japanese scientists showed how a male pheromone in mice enhances sexual behaviors in females—and how it may enhance a different behavior, aggression, in males—by identifying distinct neural circuits ...

Coupling of movement and vision

June 22, 2017

In a study published in Cell, Georg Keller and his group shed light on neural circuits in the cortex that underlie the integration of movement and visual feedback. They identified a mechanism in the visual cortex responsible ...

Forgetting can make you smarter

June 21, 2017

For most people having a good memory means being able to remember more information clearly for long periods of time. For neuroscientists too, the inability to remember was long believed to represent a failure of the brain's ...

1 comment

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.