the Hippo Went Across the Campus to the Library

The hippocampus is a structure in the brain that is shaped like a seahorse. Learning and memory formation occurs in the hippocampus (memories are stored everywhere, but the hippocampus plays a major role in memory formation)--past studies with mice have indicated how stress can inhibit this process.

Kandel (2013) reported how weakened signals in the hippocampus are associated with age-related memory problems, such as dementia or Alzheimer's. Perry and Szalavitz (2010) also indicated how there are high rates of memory loss or memory problems for individuals with depression. There was reported tissue damage or less-developed areas of the hippocampuses of these individuals.

Kandel (2013) stated his hopes for developing medication that can strengthen signals in the hippocampus for older adults. There was also an expressed hope in the healing properties of lifelong learning in later adulthood, as well as talk therapy. There has been neural imaging to support the healing effects of talk therapy.

This relationship between stress and memory loss is important in understanding how long-term exposure to stressful situations affects not just the physical health of a person, but also their learning potential. This has implications for social policy and the education of our children. If families are constantly under stress to pay the bills or make ends meet, most certainly children are being affected indirectly in their schooling. Cortisol levels are raised for fight-or-flight situations, but over a long-term lifestyle of stress, can be dangerous. Long-term exposure to stress can lead to high blood pressure, heightened heart rates, and perceptions of threat (hyper arousal).

Some long-term effects of stress:

  • high blood pressure
  • skin problems
  • pain
  • fatigue
  • change in sex drive
  • sleep problems
  • decreased motivation
  • attention or focus problems
  • depression or anxiety
  • obesity
  • diabetes

Intentional calming or relaxation during the day can help reduce cortisol levels to improve one's physical health and memory. For more long-term work and healing, talk therapy may be an option. Sometimes it may feel like a burden to share problems with loved ones, but keeping the pain inside can become toxic. There are trained, empathic professionals available to listen as well as help one identify short and long-term goals.

Additional Resources:


Essig, T. (2013). Your brain and talk therapy: a powerful duet. Retrieved from:

Ghose, T. (2013). Depression treatments: brain scans may suggest best course. Retrieved from:

Kandel, E. (2013). Healthy aging with eric kandel, m.d. Retrieved from:

Nauert, R. (2008). Stress affects learning and memory. Retrieved from:

Perry, B. D., Szalavitz, M. (2010).

Born For Love: why empathy is essential--and endangered. New York: William Morrow. Sciencentral. (2008). Stress and memory. Retrieved from:

Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London. (2011). Scans show changes in brain after cognitive behavior therapy. Retrieved from: