Hippocampus is by science said to have 3 major roles in the brain:
Memory: Hippocampus is where the consolidation of information from short-term memory to long-term memory takes place; meaning that is stores what you have just learned for later use.
Spatial navigation. It processes not only information on what, but also on where. It is responsible for storing information on places,and responsible for you to find your way around.
Creative thinking. It plays an important role in our ability to be creative. Hippocampus can be described as the ‘relation database of the brain’, meaning that it contributes to maintenance and on-line processing of relational information – exactly what creativity can be defined as: “rapid generation, combination, and recombination of existing knowledge to create novel ideas and ways of thinking”.
And what if it fails?
The first part of the brain that gets damaged in an Alzheimers patient is hippocampus, and that gives a quite good picture of what happens if hippocampus gets damaged, or in other way inhibited. Symptoms are lack of short term memory, general memory loss, and disorientation. You can no longer remember the little things and what you just did, and eventually it will be difficult to recall what you used to know. Forget about learning new stuff, and at the same time that you loose creativity, you get lost, trying to go from a to b.
The amazing thing bout hippocampus is, that is is what scientists call plastic. It can develop new neurons and new connections, so it is able of restoring if damaged.
The hippocampus contains high levels of cortisol receptors. Why that’s important is described in part 3: cortisol