Long-term plasticity in hippocampal place-cell representation of environmental geometry

Nature. 2002 Mar 7;416(6876):90-4. doi: 10.1038/416090a.


The hippocampus is widely believed to be involved in the storage or consolidation of long-term memories. Several reports have shown short-term changes in single hippocampal unit activity during memory and plasticity experiments, but there has been no experimental demonstration of long-term persistent changes in neuronal activity in any region except primary cortical areas. Here we report that, in rats repeatedly exposed to two differently shaped environments, the hippocampal-place-cell representations of those environments gradually and incrementally diverge; this divergence is specific to environmental shape, occurs independently of explicit reward, persists for periods of at least one month, and transfers to new enclosures of the same shape. These results indicate that place cells may be a neural substrate for long-term incidental learning, and demonstrate the long-term stability of an experience-dependent firing pattern in the hippocampal formation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • Form Perception / physiology
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Housing, Animal
  • Learning
  • Long-Term Potentiation*
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Orientation
  • Rats
  • Reward
  • Time