Distinct hippocampal time cell sequences represent odor memories in immobilized rats

J Neurosci. 2013 Sep 4;33(36):14607-16. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1537-13.2013.


Previous studies have revealed the existence of hippocampal "time cells," principal neurons in CA1 that fire at specific moments in temporally organized experiences. However, in all these studies, animals were in motion; and so, temporal modulation might be due, at least in part, to concurrent or planned movement through space or self-generated movement (path integration). Here the activity of hippocampal CA1 neurons was recorded in head-fixed and immobile rats while they remembered odor stimuli across a delay period. Many neurons selectively and reliably activated at brief moments during the delay, as confirmed by several analyses of temporal modulation, during a strong ongoing θ rhythm. Furthermore, each odor memory was represented by a temporally organized ensemble of time cells composed mostly of neurons that were unique to each memory and some that fired at the same or different moments among multiple memories. These results indicate that ongoing or intended movement through space is not necessary for temporal representations in the hippocampus, and highlight the potential role of time cells as a mechanism for representing the flow of time in distinct memories.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / cytology
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / physiology*
  • Head
  • Head Movements
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Odorants*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Restraint, Physical*
  • Smell
  • Time Factors