Spatial representations in dorsal hippocampal neurons during a tactile-visual conditional discrimination task

Hippocampus. 2012 Feb;22(2):299-308. doi: 10.1002/hipo.20898. Epub 2010 Nov 15.


Trajectory-dependent coding in dorsal CA1 of hippocampus has been evident in various spatial memory tasks aiming to model episodic memory. Hippocampal neurons are considered to be trajectory-dependent if the neuron has a place field located on an overlapping segment of two trajectories and exhibits a reliable difference in firing rate between the two trajectories. It is unclear whether trajectory-dependent coding in hippocampus is a mechanism used by the rat to solve spatial memory tasks. A first step in answering this question is to compare results between studies using tasks that require spatial working memory and those that do not. We recorded single units from dorsal CA1 of hippocampus during performance of a discrete-trial, tactile-visual conditional discrimination (CD) task in a T-maze. In this task, removable floor inserts that differ in texture and appearance cue the rat to visit either the left or right goal arm to receive a food reward. Our goal was to assess whether trajectory coding would be evident in the CD task. Our results show that trajectory coding was rare in the CD task, with only 12 of 71 cells with place fields on the maze stem showing a significant firing rate difference between left and right trials. For comparison, we recorded from dorsal CA1 during the acquisition and performance of a continuous spatial alternation task identical to that used in previous studies and found a proportion of trajectory coding neurons similar to what has been previously reported. Our data suggest that trajectory coding is not a universal mechanism used by the hippocampus to disambiguate similar trajectories, and instead may be more likely to appear in tasks that require the animal to retrieve information about a past trajectory, particularly in tasks that are continuous rather than discrete in nature.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / physiology*
  • Discrimination, Psychological / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / physiology
  • Memory / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Space Perception / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology