Memory Care: Hippocampus size and Healthy memory

by CityView Staff

Memory Care: Hippocampus size and Healthy memory.

The hippocampus is one of the most vital components of the human brain. It is named after the Greek word “hippos” meaning horse, and “kampos” meaning sea monster, for its resemblance to a seahorse. The hippocampus Memory is a part of the limbic system that provides a number of functions such as emotion, behaviour, motivation and formation of memories. Humans and other vertebrates have two hippocampi on the left and the right side of the brain, located below the cerebral cortex, and they play a major role in merging short term memory into long term memory. It also helps humans to navigate and have spatial memory which processes and stores information about an individual’s surrounding environment and spatial orientation.

Memory Care: Hippocampus size and Healthy memory

The developing understanding of cognition and memory.

The mind, psyche, and brain are some of the least understood aspects of the human body, but intensive research is continuously providing society with insights and analysis into the operation of the mind, and memory-related issues such as mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s, and dementia. CityView Senior Living in Los Angeles is an upscale assisted living community with a dedicated memory care program.

How memories are saved in the brain.

There are various types of neuronal cells that are layered in the hippocampus in an organized manner and therefore has been used extensively in studying neural plasticity and strengthening patterns in synapses (long term potentiation) based on how they are used. This strengthening of synapses, or long term potentiation, as it is scientifically known, is believed to be one of the main methods of how memories are saved in the brain. Over the history of medicine, three theories have been established on the hippocampus based on various surgical outcomes and observations. These are known as response inhibition, episodic memory, and spatial cognition. These theories show that the hippocampus plays a major role in memory management, creating awareness of the surroundings and inhibiting responses that were previously learnt.

The size of the hippocampus significantly reduces with age.

This results in loss of memory and individuals become prone to risks of dementia. It has been identified by studies that adults who are more active and engage in exercise have larger volumes of hippocampal and temporal lobes. This means that there is a direct relationship between keeping fit and exercising more, with the size of the hippocampus, thereby lower the risks of memory loss in active adults. However, most of these studies have not quantified these results and shown a quantitative relationship between hippocampus size and the form of exercise.

This issue was addressed by a study conducted with the aid of the University of Pittsburgh Alzheimer's Disease Research Center.

From the study conducted on 120 test subjects, it was found that the volume of the hippocampus decreases by 1-2% each year in older adults who are not suffering from dementia. This rate of loss contributes to increased risks of developing brain issues. In addition to this information, the study further identified that aerobic exercise training can increase the size and volume of the hippocampus by 2%. This essentially means that engaging in aerobic exercise can reverse the effects of ageing on the hippocampus by one to two years. Magnetic resonance images were collected of these test subjects before and after the commencement, after 6 months and after the completion of the study period to arrive at this hypothesis. These findings provide evidence that the hippocampus and memory is shrinking with age and that this process can be effectively reversed by engaging in aerobic exercise training. This reversal will provide better hippocampus memory function and cognitive health for older adults and improve their quality of life.

Explore Your Care Options

It can be helpful for families who have a loved one experiencing memory loss to explore the causes of memory loss in seniors and to examine long term care options. If you’re exploring memory care options for a family member in Los Angeles, please consider visiting our community for a tour, or contact us for more information about our senior care program.



Bird, C., & Burgess, N. (2008). The hippocampus and memory: insights from spatial processing. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9(3), 182-194.

Erickson, K., Voss, M., Prakash, R., Basak, C., Szabo, A., & Chaddock, L. et al. (2011). Exercise training increases the size of the hippocampus and improves memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(7), 3017-3022.

Martin, JH (2003). "Lymbic system and cerebral circuits for emotions, learning, and memory". Neuroanatomy: text and atlas (third ed.). McGraw-Hill Companies. p. 382. ISBN 0-07-121237-X.

Eichenbaum, H. (1998). Ageing, memory, and hippocampal spatial representation. Hippocampus, 8(5), 431-431.<431::aid-hipo1>;2-e