In mammals, the selective transformation of transient experience into stored memory occurs in the hippocampus, which develops representations of specific events in the context in which they occur. In this review, we focus on the development of hippocampal circuits and the self-organized dynamics embedded within them since the latter critically support the role of the hippocampus in learning and memory. We first discuss evidence that adult hippocampal cells and circuits are sculpted by development as early as during embryonic neurogenesis. We argue that these primary developmental programs provide a scaffold onto which later experience of the external world can be grafted. Next, we review the different sequences in the development of hippocampal cells and circuits at anatomical and functional levels. We cover a period extending from neurogenesis and migration to the appearance of phenotypic diversity within hippocampal cells and their wiring into functional networks. We describe the progressive emergence of network dynamics in the hippocampus, from sensorimotor-driven early sharp waves to sequences of place cells tracking relational information. We outline the critical turn points and discontinuities in that developmental journey, and close by formulating open questions. We propose that rewinding the process of hippocampal development helps understand the main organization principles of memory circuits.
Keywords: circuits; development; hippocampus; memory.