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The right hippocampus leads the bilateral integration of gamma-parsed lateralized information.

Dominance on one side prompts immediate synchronization of the two brain lobes to complete a scene.

Information in the hippocampus manifests as electrical activity in the form of pulses generated by a pacemaker on each side.

In humans and other backboned animals, the brain is divided into the left and right hemispheres, which are connected by several large bundles of nerve fibers. Thanks to these fiber tracts, sensory information from each side of the body can reach both sides of the brain. However, although many areas of the brain work with a counterpart on the opposite hemisphere to process this sensory information, they do not necessarily perform the same tasks or at the same time as their partner.

The hippocampus is a brain region that helps to support navigation, to detect novelty, and to produce memories. In fact, our brains contain two hippocampi – one in each hemisphere. Previous studies of the hippocampus have tended to record from only one side of the brain. Benito, Martín-Vázquez, Makarova et al. now compare the activity of the left and right hippocampi, and consider how the two structures might work together.

Recordings of the electrical activity of the hippocampi of anesthetized rats show that different groups of neurons fire in rhythmic sequence forming waves called gamma waves. Successive waves have different amplitude, and form strings. The recordings made by Benito et al. show that the two hippocampi produce parallel strings of waves, although the waves that originate in the right hemisphere are generally larger than those that originate in the left. Right-hemisphere waves also tend to begin slightly earlier than their left-hemisphere counterparts.

Further experiments revealed that disrupting the fiber tracts between the hemispheres uncouples the waves that no longer occur at the same time, and the strings of waves may remain constrained to one side of the brain. In healthy animals, however, the right-hand dominance acts as a master-slave device, and makes the waves from the two hemispheres to merge well paired in other neurons that receive both. Thus the information running in both hippocampi can be integrated or compared before sending to the cortex for task execution or storage.

Overall, the findings reported by Benito et al. suggest that different types of information flow through the left and right hemispheres, and that the brain integrates these two streams using asymmetric connections. The next challenge is to identify how the information in the two streams differs: whether each stream reflects different sensory stimuli, different features of a scene, or the difference between recalled and perceived information.


N. Benito, G. Martín-Vázquez, J. Makarova, V. A. Makarov y Ó. Herreras  The right hippocampus leads the bilateral integration of gamma-parsed lateralized information eLIFE. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.16658.

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