Qualitatively different modes of perirhinal-hippocampal engagement when rats explore novel vs. familiar objects as revealed by c-Fos imaging

Eur J Neurosci. 2010 Jan;31(1):134-47. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2009.07042.x. Epub 2009 Dec 23.


Expression of the immediate-early gene c-fos was used to test for different patterns of temporal lobe interactions when rats explore either novel or familiar objects. A new behavioural test of recognition memory was first devised to generate robust levels of novelty discrimination and to provide a matched control condition using familiar objects. Increased c-Fos activity was found in caudal but not rostral portions of the perirhinal cortex (areas 35/36) and in area Te2 in rats showing object recognition, i.e. preferential exploration of novel vs. familiar objects. The findings are presented at a higher anatomical resolution than previous studies of immediate-early gene expression and object novelty and, crucially, provide the first analyses when animals are actively discriminating the novel objects. Novel vs. familiar object comparisons also revealed altered c-Fos patterns in hippocampal subfields, with relative increases in CA3 and CA1 and decreases in the dentate gyrus. These hippocampal changes match those previously reported for the automatic coding of object-spatial associations. Additional analyses of the c-Fos data using structural equation modelling indicated the presence of pathways starting in the caudal perirhinal cortex that display a direction of effects from the entorhinal cortex to the CA1 field (temporo-ammonic) when presented with familiar objects, but switch to the engagement of the direct entorhinal cortex pathway to the dentate gyrus (perforant) with novel object discrimination. This entorhinal switch provides a potential route by which the rhinal cortex can moderate hippocampal processing, with a dynamic change from temporo-ammonic (familiar stimuli) to perforant pathway (novel stimuli) influences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology
  • Cell Count
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pattern Recognition, Physiological / physiology
  • Photomicrography
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Temporal Lobe / physiology*


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos