Development of the hippocampal CA2 region and the emergence of social recognition

Emma J. Diethorn, Elizabeth Gould

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Social memories formed in early life, like those for family and unrelated peers, are known to contribute to healthy social interactions throughout life, although how the developing brain supports social memory remains relatively unexplored. The CA2 subregion of the hippocampus is involved in social memory function, but most literature on this subject is restricted to studies of adult rodents. Here, we review the current literature on the embryonic and postnatal development of hippocampal subregion CA2 in mammals, with a focus on the emergence of its unusual molecular and cellular characteristics, including its notably high expression of plasticity-suppressing molecules. We also consider the connectivity of the CA2 with other brain areas, including intrahippocampal regions, such as the dentate gyrus, CA3, and CA1 regions, and extrahippocampal regions, such as the hypothalamus, ventral tegmental area, basal forebrain, raphe nuclei, and the entorhinal cortex. We review developmental milestones of CA2 molecular, cellular, and circuit-level features that may contribute to emerging social recognition abilities for kin and unrelated conspecifics in early life. Lastly, we consider genetic mouse models related to neurodevelopmental disorders in humans in order to survey evidence about whether atypical formation of the CA2 may contribute to social memory dysfunction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-156
Number of pages14
JournalDevelopmental Neurobiology
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Jul 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Developmental Neuroscience


  • CA2 region
  • development
  • hippocampus
  • social memory


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