Neurons in hippocampal afferent zones of rat striatum parse routes into multi-pace segments during maze navigation

Eur J Neurosci. 2004 Apr;19(7):1923-32. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2004.03301.x.


Hippocampal 'place' neurons discharge when rats occupy specific regions within an environment. This finding is a cornerstone of the theory of the hippocampus as a cognitive map of space. But for navigation, representations of current position must be implemented by signals concerning where to go next, and how to get there. In recordings in hippocampal output structures associated with the motor system (nucleus accumbens and ventromedial caudate nucleus) in rats solving a plus-maze, neurons fired continuously from the moment the rat left one location until it arrived at the next goal site, or at an intermediate place, such as the maze centre. While other studies have shown discharges during reward approach behaviours, this is the first demonstration of activity corresponding to the parsing of complex routes into sequences of movements between landmarks, similar to the lists of instructions we often employ to communicate directions to follow between points on a map. As these cells fired during a series of several paces or re-orientation movements, perhaps this is homologous to 'chunking'. The temporal overlaps in the activity profiles of the individual neurons provide a possible substrate to successively trigger movements required to arrive at the goal. These hippocampally informed, and in some cases, spatially selective responses support the view of the ventral striatum as an interface between limbic and motor systems, permitting contextual representations to have an impact on fundamental action sequences for goal-directed behaviour.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Afferent Pathways / physiology*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Basal Ganglia / cytology*
  • Basal Ganglia / physiology
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Brain Mapping
  • Electrodes
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / physiology*
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Reward