Experience-dependent firing rate remapping generates directional selectivity in hippocampal place cells

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Navratilova, Zaneta
Hoang, Lan T.
Schwindel, C. Daniela
Tatsuno, Masami
McNaughton, Bruce L.
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Frontiers Research Foundation
When rodents engage in irregular foraging in an open-field environment, hippocampal principal cells exhibit place-specific firing that is statistically independent of the direction of traverse through the place field. When the path is restricted to a track, however, in-field rates differ substantially in opposite directions. Frequently, the representations of the track in the two directions are essentially orthogonal. We show that this directionally selective firing is not hard-wired, but develops through experience-dependent plasticity. During the rats' first pass in each direction, place fields were highly directionally symmetric, whereas over subsequent laps, the firing rates in the two directions gradually but substantially diverged. We conclude that, even on a restricted track, place cell firing is initially determined by allocentric position, and only later, the within-field firing rates change in response to differential sensory information or behavioral cues in the two directions. In agreement with previous data, place fields near local cues, such as textures on the track, developed less directionality than place fields on a uniform part of the track, possibily because the local cues reduced the net difference in sensory input at a given point. Directionality also developed in an open environment without physical restriction of the animal's path, when rats learned to run along a specified path. In this case, directionality developed later than on the running track, only after the rats began to run in a stereotyped manner. Although the average population firing rates exhibited little if any change over laps in either direction, the direction-specific firing rates in a given place field were up-or-down-regulated with about equal probability and magnitude, which was independent in the two directions, suggesting some form of competitive mechanism (e.g., LTP/LTD) acting coherently on the set of synapses conveying external information to each cell.
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CA1 , CA3 , Rate remapping , Directional place fields , Navigation , Path integration
Navratilova, Z., Hoang, L. T., Schwindel, C. D., Tatsuno, M., & McNaughton, B. L. (2012). Experience-dependent firing rate remapping generates directional selectivity in hippocampal place cells. Frontiers in Neural Circuits, 6:6. doi:10.3389/fncir.2012.00006