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Postnatal development of the hippocampal formation: neuroanatomical studies in the monkey

English title Postnatal development of the hippocampal formation: neuroanatomical studies in the monkey
Applicant Lavenex Pierre
Number 106701
Funding scheme SNSF Professorships
Research institution Département de Médecine Université de Fribourg
Institution of higher education University of Fribourg - FR
Main discipline Neurophysiology and Brain Research
Start/End 01.08.2005 - 31.07.2009
Approved amount 1'545'542.00
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Keywords (6)

neuroanatomy; gene expression; functional organization; connectivity; postnatal maturation; hippocampus

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
The hippocampal formation is comprised of a group of brain regions located in the medial temporal lobe. Damage to these structures causes a profound loss of memory for events (such as the memories of your wedding or your 20th birthday) and facts about the world (such as the name of the capital of France or the color of the Swiss flag), without other sensory, motor or cognitive impairments. Over the last 25 years, the work of many laboratories worldwide has clarified the basic functional organization of the adult primate hippocampal formation. These fundamental neuroanatomical studies carried out in the monkey have served as the foundation for our understanding of human memory function, and have been essential to our current understanding of the pathology of neuropsychiatric disorders including amnesia, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy.

The next frontier facing neuroscientists is understanding the neurobiological bases of the development of memory processes, and how the abnormal development of medial temporal lobe structures contributes to the etiology of neurodevelopmental and genetic disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. Given the significance of these issues, it is surprising to find that there are no comprehensive or systematic studies of any aspect of the postnatal maturation of the primate hippocampal formation. Such fundamental neuroanatomical information is essential before even beginning to address questions such as: “What is the most basic state of neural development capable of subserving memory function?” and “How does the development of the medial temporal lobe in autistics differ from that of normal individuals?”

Our overall research program is integrative and multidisciplinary, focusing on the postnatal neuroanatomical maturation of the monkey hippocampal formation with the principal goals of understanding the neurobiological basis of memory processes and the etiology of human neurodevelopmental disorders. The data generated by our research program will provide a comprehensive picture of the maturity of the primate hippocampal formation at birth, as well as the ages at which a variety of neuroanatomical features achieve adult characteristics. By determining when such developmental milestones occur, we will be able to suggest ages at which specific hippocampal circuits are able to subserve specific memory processes. Our findings will have broad implications for our understanding of human memory processes across the lifespan. Our research carried out in the monkey will also define processes, substrates and critical periods of maturation that might be particularly sensitive to perturbation and contribute to developmental and genetic disorders of the human nervous system such as autism, schizophrenia and epilepsy.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
124536 Postnatal development of the hippocampal formation: neuroanatomical and plasticity studies in monkeys 01.08.2009 SNSF Professorships
143956 Postnatal development and plasticity of the primate hippocampal formation 01.01.2013 Project funding (Div. I-III)