Event: 757

Key Event Title


Hippocampal anatomy, Altered

Short name


Hippocampal anatomy, Altered

Biological Context


Level of Biological Organization

Organ term


Organ term

Key Event Components


Process Object Action
brain development hippocampal formation morphological change

Key Event Overview

AOPs Including This Key Event




Taxonomic Applicability


Term Scientific Term Evidence Link
mouse Mus musculus High NCBI
rat Rattus norvegicus High NCBI
human Homo sapiens High NCBI

Life Stages


Life stage Evidence
During brain development High

Sex Applicability


Term Evidence
Male High
Female High

Key Event Description


The hippocampus is a major brain region located in the medial temporal lobe in humans and other mammals (West, 1990). Developmentally it is derived from neuronal and glial cells in the neural tube and differentiates in the proencephalon and telencephalon.  The hippocampus is a cortical structure, but only contains 3-layers, distinct from the 6-layered neocortical structures. For this reason, it is known as archicortex or paleocortex meaning old cortex. Within humans, the structure is identified as early as fetal week 13 and matures rapidly until 2 to 3 years of age (Kier et al 1997), with continuing slow growth thereafter until adult ages (Utsunomiya et al., 1999).  In rodents, the hippocampus begins to form in midgestation, with the CA fields forming in advance of the dentate gyrus. Dentate gyrus forms in late gestation with most of its development occurring in the first 2-3 postnatal weeks (Altman and Bayer, 1990a; 1990b).

The structure of the hippocampus has been divided into regions that include CA1 through CA4 and the dentate gyrus. The principal cell bodies of the CA field are pyramidal neurons, those of the dentate gyrus are granule cells. The dentate gyrus forms later in development than the CA fields of the hippocampus. These regions are generally found in all mammalian hippocampi.

The major input pathway to the hippocampus is from the layer 2 neurons of the entorhinal cortex to the dentate gyrus via the perforant path forming the first connection of the trisynaptic loop of the hippocampal circuit. Direct afferents from the dentate gyrus (mossy fibers) then synapse on CA3 pyramidal cells which in turn send their axons (Schaeffer Collaterals) to CA1 neurons to complete the trisynaptic circuit (Figure 1). From the CA fields information then passes through the subiculum entering the fiber pathways of the alveus, fimbria, and fornix and it routed to other areas of the brain (Amaral and Lavenex, 2006). Through the interconnectivity within the hippocampus and its connections to amygdala, septum and cortex, the hippocampus plays a pivotal role in several learning and memory processes, including spatial behaviors. The primary input pathway to the CA regions of the hippocampus is from the septum by way of the fornix and direct input from the amygdala. Reciprocal outputs from the hippocampus back to these regions and beyond also exist.


Trisynaptic Hippocampal Circuitry

How It Is Measured or Detected


Data in support of this key event have been collected using a wide variety of standard biochemical, histological and anatomical methods (e.g., morphometrics, immunohistochemical staining, in situ hybridization and imaging procedures). Many of methods applied to reveal anatomical abnormalities are routine neurohistopathology procedures similar to those recommended in EPA and OECD developmental neurotoxicity guidelines (US EPA, 1998; OCED, 2007). Subtle cytoarchitectural features depend on more specialized birth dating procedures and staining techniques. It is essential to consider the timing of events during development for detection to occur, as well as the timing for detection (Hevner, 2007; Garman et al., 2001; Zgraggen et al., 2012). Similar techniques used in rodent stydies have been applied to postmortem tissue in humans. 

In humans, structural neuroimaging techniques are used to assess hippocampal volume with an analysis technique known as voxel-based morphometry (VBM). Volume of brain regions is measured by drawing regions of interest (ROIs) on images from brain scans obtained from magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or positron emission tomography (PET) scans and calculating the volume enclosed. (Mechelli et al., 2005). Similar imaging techniques can be applied in rodent models (Powell et al., 2009; Hasegawa et al., 2010; Pirko et al., 2005; Pirko and Johnson, 2008).

Domain of Applicability


The hippocampus is generally similar in structure function across most mammalian species (West, 1990). The vast majority of information on the structure of the hippocampus is from mice, rats and primates including humans.

Evidence for Perturbation by Stressor



Altman J, Bayer SA. Migration and distribution of two populations of hippocampal granule cell precursors during the perinatal and postnatal periods. J Comp Neurol. 1990a Nov 15;301(3):365-81.

Altman J, Bayer SA. Prolonged sojourn of developing pyramidal cells in the intermediate zone of the hippocampus and their settling in the stratum pyramidale. J Comp Neurol. 1990b Nov 15;301(3):343-64.

Amaral D, Lavenex P (2006). "Ch 3. Hippocampal Neuroanatomy". In Andersen P, Morris R, Amaral D, Bliss T, O'Keefe J. The Hippocampus Book. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-510027-3.

Garman RH, Fix AS, Jortner BS, Jensen KF, Hardisty JF, Claudio L, Ferenc S. Methods to identify and characterize developmental neurotoxicity for human health risk assessment. II: neuropathology. Environ Health Perspect. 2001 Mar;109 Suppl 1:93-100.

Hasegawa M, Kida I, Wada H.  A volumetric analysis of the brain and hippocampus of rats rendered perinatal hypothyroid. Neurosci Lett. 2010 Aug 2;479(3):240-4.

Hevner RF. Layer-specific markers as probes for neuron type identity in human neocortex and malformations of cortical development. J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2007 66(2):101-9.

Kier, EL, Kim, JH, Fulbright, K, Bronen, RA. Embryology of the human fetal hippocampus: MR imaging, anatomy, and histology. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol: 1997, 18(3);525-32.

Mechelli A, Price C, Friston K, Ashburner J (2005) Voxel-Based Morphometry of the Human Brain: Methods and Applications. Curr Med Imaging Rev 1:105-113.

OECD. 2007. OECD guidelines for the testing of chemicals/ section 4: Health effects. Test no. 426: Developmental neurotoxicity study. http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/20/52/37622194.

Pirko I, Fricke ST, Johnson AJ, Rodriguez M, Macura SI. Magnetic resonance imaging, microscopy, and spectroscopy of the central nervous system in experimental animals. NeuroRx. 2005 Apr;2(2):250-64.

Pirko I, Johnson AJ. Neuroimaging of demyelination and remyelination models. Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 2008; 318:241-66.

Powell MH, Nguyen HV, Gilbert M, Parekh M, Colon-Perez LM, Mareci TH, Montie E. Magnetic resonance imaging and volumetric analysis: novel tools to study the effects of thyroid hormone disruption on white matter development. Neurotoxicology. 2012 Oct;33(5):1322-9.

U.S.EPA. 1998. Health effects guidelines OPPTS 870.6300 developmental neurotoxicity study. EPA Document 712-C-98-239.Office of Prevention Pesticides and Toxic Substances.

Utsunomiya, H., K Takano, M Okazaki, A Mitsudome Development of the temporal lobe in infants and children: analysis by MR-based volumetry. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol: 1999, 20(4);717-23.

West MJ (1990). "Stereological studies of the hippocampus: a comparison of the hippocampal subdivisions of diverse species including hedgehogs, laboratory rodents, wild mice and men". Progress in Brain Research. Progress in Brain Research 83: 13–36.

Zgraggen E, Boitard M, Roman I, Kanemitsu M, Potter G, Salmon P, Vutskits L, Dayer AG, Kiss JZ. Early postnatal migration and development of layer II pyramidal neurons in the rodent cingulate/retrosplenial cortex. Cereb Cortex. 2012 Jan;22(1):144-57.