The extent of external and internal factors contributing to location-specific firing of hippocampal place cells is currently unclear. We investigated the role of active movement in location-specific firing by comparing spatial firing patterns of hippocampal neurons, while rats either ran freely or rode a motorized cart on the same circular track. Most neurons changed their spatial firing patterns across the two navigation conditions ("remapping"), and they were stably maintained across repeated active or passive navigation sessions. These results show that active movement is a critical factor in determining place-specific firing of hippocampal neurons. This could explain why passive displacement is not an effective way of acquiring spatial knowledge for subsequent active navigation in an unfamiliar environment.
Copyright (c) 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.