The hippocampal formation has been implicated in a growing number of disorders, from Alzheimer's disease and cognitive ageing to schizophrenia and depression. How can the hippocampal formation, a complex circuit that spans the temporal lobes, be involved in a range of such phenotypically diverse and mechanistically distinct disorders? Recent neuroimaging findings indicate that these disorders differentially target distinct subregions of the hippocampal circuit. In addition, some disorders are associated with hippocampal hypometabolism, whereas others show evidence of hypermetabolism. Interpreted in the context of the functional and molecular organization of the hippocampal circuit, these observations give rise to a unified pathophysiological framework of hippocampal dysfunction.