Hippocampal modulation of sensorimotor processes

Tobias Bast*, Joram Feldon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


While the hippocampus makes unique contributions to memory, it has also long been associated with sensorimotor processes, i.e. innate processes involving control of motor responses to sensory stimuli. Moreover, hippocampal dysfunction has been implicated in neuropsychiatric diseases, such as schizophrenia and anxiety disorders, primarily characterized by non-mnemonic deficits in the processing of and responding to sensory information. This review is concerned with the hippocampal modulation of three sensorimotor processes in rats - locomotor activity, prepulse inhibition (PPI) of the startle reflex, and the startle reflex itself - whose alterations are related to human psychosis or anxiety disorders. Its main purpose is to present and discuss the picture emerging from studies examining the effects of pharmacological manipulations of the dorsal and ventral hippocampus by local drug microinfusions. While a role of the hippocampus in regulating locomotor activity, PPI, and startle reactivity has also been suggested based on the effects of hippocampal lesions, the microinfusion studies have revealed additional important details of this role and suggest modifications of notions based on lesion studies. In summary, the microinfusion studies corroborate that hippocampal mechanisms can directly influence locomotor activity, PPI, and startle reactivity, and that aberrant hippocampal function may contribute to neuropsychiatric diseases, in particular psychosis. The relation between different sensorimotor processes and hippocampal neurotransmission, the role of ventral and dorsal hippocampus, and the extrahippocampal mechanisms mediating the hippocampal modulation of different sensorimotor processes can partly be dissociated. Thus, the hippocampal modulation of these sensorimotor processes appears to reflect multiple operations, rather than one unitary operation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-345
Number of pages27
JournalProgress in Neurobiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2003
Externally publishedYes


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