Scientific Understanding of Consciousness
Hippocampal Place Cells and Long-Term Memories
Science 17 August 2012: Vol. 337 no. 6096 pp. 849-853
Hippocampal Place Fields Emerge upon Single-Cell Manipulation of Excitability During Behavior
Doyun Lee, Bei-Jung Lin, Albert K. Lee
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Janelia Farm Research Campus, Ashburn, VA 20147, USA.
The hippocampus plays a crucial role in the formation of long-term memories for facts and events in humans and for spatial learning in rodents. A hippocampal CA1 pyramidal cell receives thousands of synaptic inputs, mostly from other spatially tuned neurons. A critical aspect of neuronal integration is the interaction of synaptic inputs with the membrane properties of the postsynaptic cell. The gating of inputs by postsynaptic neuronal excitability reveals a cellular mechanism for receptive field origin and may be critical for the formation of hippocampal memory representations. Our results strongly support such nonlinear dendritic amplification mechanisms.
These findings have important implications for place cells, spatial memory, and hippocampal-dependent memory in general. The distribution of excitability levels across the population would then determine which cells would represent a new item or environment in memory.. Moreover, the gating machinery would be a potential locus of plasticity for long-term storage.
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