Hippocampal theta sequences reflect current goals

Nat Neurosci. 2015 Feb;18(2):289-94. doi: 10.1038/nn.3909. Epub 2015 Jan 5.


Hippocampal information processing is discretized by oscillations, and the ensemble activity of place cells is organized into temporal sequences bounded by theta cycles. Theta sequences represent time-compressed trajectories through space. Their forward-directed nature makes them an intuitive candidate mechanism for planning future trajectories, but their connection to goal-directed behavior remains unclear. As rats performed a value-guided decision-making task, the extent to which theta sequences projected ahead of the animal's current location varied on a moment-by-moment basis depending on the rat's goals. Look-ahead extended farther on journeys to distant goals than on journeys to more proximal goals and was predictive of the animal's destination. On arrival at goals, however, look-ahead was similar regardless of where the animal began its journey from. Together, these results provide evidence that hippocampal theta sequences contain information related to goals or intentions, pointing toward a potential spatial basis for planning.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / cytology
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Goals*
  • Intention
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Reward
  • Spatial Behavior / physiology*
  • Theta Rhythm / physiology*