Functional differences in the backward shifts of CA1 and CA3 place fields in novel and familiar environments

PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e36035. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036035. Epub 2012 Apr 27.


Insight into the processing dynamics and other neurophysiological properties of different hippocampal subfields is critically important for understanding hippocampal function. In this study, we compared shifts in the center of mass (COM) of CA3 and CA1 place fields in a familiar and completely novel environment. Place fields in CA1 and CA3 were simultaneously recorded as rats ran along a closed loop track in a familiar room followed by a session in a completely novel room. This process was repeated each day over a 4-day period. CA3 place fields shifted backward (opposite to the direction of motion of the rat) only in novel environments. This backward shift gradually diminished across days, as the novel environment became more familiar with repeated exposures. Conversely, CA1 place fields shifted backward across all days in both familiar and novel environments. Prior studies demonstrated that CA1 place fields on average do not exhibit a backward shift during the first exposure to an environment in which the familiar cues are rearranged into a novel configuration, although CA3 place fields showed a strong backward shift. Under the completely novel conditions of the present study, no dissociation was observed between CA3 and CA1 during the first novel session (although a strong dissociation was observed in the familiar sessions and the later novel sessions). In summary, this is the first study to use simultaneous recordings in CA1 and CA3 to compare place field COM shift and other associated properties in truly novel and familiar environments. This study further demonstrates functional differentiation between CA1 and CA3 as the plasticity of CA1 place fields is affected differently by exposure to a completely novel environment in comparison to an altered, familiar environment, whereas the plasticity of CA3 place fields is affected similarly during both types of environmental novelty.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / anatomy & histology
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / physiology*
  • CA3 Region, Hippocampal / anatomy & histology
  • CA3 Region, Hippocampal / physiology*
  • Environment*
  • Male
  • Nervous System Physiological Phenomena*
  • Organ Size
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Video Recording