Key cells in the brain region known as the hippocampus are formed in the base of the brain late in fetal life and undertake a long journey before reaching their final destination in the center of the brain shortly after birth, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health.
The hippocampus is involved with attention, navigation and converting short-term memories to long-term memories. Interneurons, the brain cell population the researchers studied, regulate communication between networks of brain cells. Previous research suggests that brain cell networks in the hippocampus may be disrupted in developmental disorders, including autism, as well as in epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.
“The hippocampus seems to be at the crossroads of many disorders affecting the brain,” said Chris McBain, Ph.D., chief of the Laboratory of Cellular and Synaptic Neurophysiology at the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). “With these findings, we can begin to understand how proper communication is established in the brain and to investigate why sometimes it breaks down in this critical area.”