A prefrontal-thalamo-hippocampal circuit for goal-directed spatial navigation

Nature. 2015 Jun 4;522(7554):50-5. doi: 10.1038/nature14396. Epub 2015 May 27.


Spatial navigation requires information about the relationship between current and future positions. The activity of hippocampal neurons appears to reflect such a relationship, representing not only instantaneous position but also the path towards a goal location. However, how the hippocampus obtains information about goal direction is poorly understood. Here we report a prefrontal-thalamic neural circuit that is required for hippocampal representation of routes or trajectories through the environment. Trajectory-dependent firing was observed in medial prefrontal cortex, the nucleus reuniens of the thalamus, and the CA1 region of the hippocampus in rats. Lesioning or optogenetic silencing of the nucleus reuniens substantially reduced trajectory-dependent CA1 firing. Trajectory-dependent activity was almost absent in CA3, which does not receive nucleus reuniens input. The data suggest that projections from medial prefrontal cortex, via the nucleus reuniens, are crucial for representation of the future path during goal-directed behaviour and point to the thalamus as a key node in networks for long-range communication between cortical regions involved in navigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / cytology
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / physiology*
  • CA3 Region, Hippocampal / cytology
  • CA3 Region, Hippocampal / physiology
  • Goals*
  • Male
  • Maze Learning
  • Midline Thalamic Nuclei / cytology
  • Midline Thalamic Nuclei / physiology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Optogenetics
  • Prefrontal Cortex / cytology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Spatial Navigation / physiology*
  • Thalamus / cytology
  • Thalamus / physiology*