In the CA3 region of the hippocampus, pyramidal cells excite other pyramidal cells and interneurons. The axons of CA3 pyramidal cells spread throughout most of the region to form an associative network. These connections were first drawn by Cajal and Lorente de No. Their physiological properties were explored to understand epileptiform discharges generated in the region. Synapses between pairs of pyramidal cells involve one or few release sites and are weaker than connections made by mossy fibers on CA3 pyramidal cells. Synapses with interneurons are rather effective, as needed to control unchecked excitation. We examine contributions of recurrent synapses to epileptiform synchrony, to the genesis of sharp waves in the CA3 region and to population oscillations at theta and gamma frequencies. Recurrent connections in CA3, as other associative cortices, have a lower connectivity spread over a larger area than in primary sensory cortices. This sparse, but wide-ranging connectivity serves the functions of an associative network, including acquisition of neuronal representations as activity in groups of CA3 cells and completion involving the recall from partial cues of these ensemble firing patterns.
Keywords: CA3; associative; circuit; hippocampus; recurrent; synapse.