Segmentation of spatial experience by hippocampal θ sequences

Nat Neurosci. 2012 Jun 17;15(7):1032-9. doi: 10.1038/nn.3138.


The encoding and storage of experience by the hippocampus is essential for the formation of episodic memories and the transformation of individual experiences into semantic structures such as maps and schemas. The rodent hippocampus compresses ongoing experience into repeating theta sequences, but the factors determining the content of theta sequences are not understood. Here we first show that the spatial paths represented by theta sequences in rats extend farther in front of the rat during acceleration and higher running speeds and begin farther behind the rat during deceleration. Second, the length of the path is directly related to the length of the theta cycle and the number of gamma cycles in it. Finally, theta sequences represent the environment in segments or 'chunks'. These results imply that information encoded in theta sequences is subject to powerful modulation by behavior and task variables. Furthermore, these findings suggest a potential mechanism for the cognitive 'chunking' of experience.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / physiology*
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred BN
  • Rats, Inbred F344
  • Theta Rhythm / physiology*