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Building hippocampal circuits to learn and remember: Insights into the development of human memory

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Lavenex Pierre, Banta Lavenex Pierre,
Project Postnatal development and plasticity of the primate hippocampal formation
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Behavioural Brain Research
Volume (Issue) 254
Page(s) 8 - 21
Title of proceedings Behavioural Brain Research


The hippocampal formation is essential for the processing of episodic memories for autobiographical events that happen in unique spatiotemporal contexts. Interestingly, before 2 years of age, children are unable to form or store episodic memories for recall later in life, a phenomenon known as infantile amnesia. From 2 to 7 years of age, there are fewer memories than predicted based on a forgetting function alone, a phenomenon known as childhood amnesia. Here, we discuss the postnatal maturation of the primate hippocampal formation with the goal of characterizing the development of the neurobiological substrates thought to subserve the emergence of episodic memory. Distinct regions, layers and cells of the hippocampal formation exhibit different profiles of structural and molecular development during early postnatal life. The protracted period of neuronal addition and maturation in the dentate gyrus is accompanied by the late maturation of specific layers in different hippocampal regions that are located downstream from the dentate gyrus, particularly CA3. In contrast, distinct layers in several hippocampal regions, particularly CA1, which receive direct projections from the entorhinal cortex, exhibit an early maturation. In addition, hippocampal regions that are more highly interconnected with subcortical structures, including the subiculum, presubiculum, parasubiculum and CA2, mature even earlier. These findings, together with our studies of the development of human spatial memory, support the hypothesis that the differential maturation of distinct hippocampal circuits might underlie the differential emergence of specific “hippocampus-dependent” memory processes, culminating in the emergence of episodic memory concomitant with the maturation of all hippocampal circuits