The hippocampal formation in schizophrenia

Carol A. Tamminga, Ana D. Stan, Anthony D. Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

436 Scopus citations


The hippocampal formation is one of the most extensively studied regions of the brain, with well-described anatomy and basic physiology; moreover, aspects of human memory mediated by the hippocampus are well characterized. In schizophrenia, alterations in hippocampal anatomy, perfusion, and activation are consistently reported; impairments in declarative memory function, especially in the flexible use of event memories (e.g., in the service of memory-based inference), are common. Postmortem molecular changes suggest a selective reduction in glutamate transmission in the dentate gyrus and in its efferent fibers, the mossy fiber pathway. A reduction in dentate gyrus glutamatergic output and in its information processing functions could generate two co-occurring outcomes in the hippocampus: 1) a change in homeostatic plasticity processes in cornu ammonis 3 (CA3), accompanied by increased activity due to reduced afferent stimulation from the dentate gyrus onto CA3 neurons, a process that could increase the pattern completion functions of CA3, and 2) the loss of mnemonic functions specific to the dentate gyrus, namely pattern separation, a change that could increase the prevalence of illusory pattern completion and reduce discrimination between present and past experiences in memory. The resulting increase in "runaway" CA3-mediated pattern completion could result in cognitive "mistakes," generating psychotic associations and resulting in memories with psychotic content. Tests of this model could result in novel approaches to the treatment of psychosis and declarative memory alterations and in novel animal preparations for basic schizophrenia research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1178-1193
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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