Head-Directional Tuning and Theta Modulation of Anatomically Identified Neurons in the Presubiculum

J Neurosci. 2015 Nov 18;35(46):15391-5. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0685-15.2015.


The presubiculum provides a major input to the medial entorhinal cortex (MEC) and contains cells that encode for the animal's head direction (HD), as well as other cells likely to be important for navigation and memory, including grid cells. To understand the mechanisms underlying HD cell firing and its effects on other parts of the circuit, it is important to determine the anatomical identity of these functionally defined cells. Therefore, we juxtacellularly recorded single cells in the presubiculum in freely moving rats, finding two classes of cells based on firing patterns and juxtacellular labeling (of a subset). Regular-firing cells had the anatomical characteristics of pyramidal cells and included most recorded HD cells. Therefore, HD cells are likely to be excitatory pyramidal cells. For one HD cell, we could follow an axon projecting directly to the MEC. Fast-spiking (FS) cells had the anatomical characteristics of interneurons and displayed weak HD tuning. Furthermore, FS cells displayed a surprising lack of theta-rhythmic firing, in strong contrast to the FS cells that we recorded in the MEC. Overall, we show that HD cells in the presubiculum are pyramidal cells, with FS interneurons only showing weak HD tuning; therefore, MEC may receive an excitatory HD input, as previously assumed by many models. The lack of theta rhythmicity in FS interneurons suggests that different mechanisms may underlie theta in different parts of the hippocampal formation.

Significance statement: In freely moving rats, we recorded and labeled single neurons in the presubiculum, an area providing one of the major inputs to the medial entorhinal cortex and part of a network involved in spatial navigation and memory. Post hoc identification of labeled cells showed that (fast-spiking, FS) interneurons and pyramidal cells in the presubiculum can be distinguished based on physiological criteria. We found that both moderately and strongly tuned head-direction (HD) cells are pyramidal cells and therefore likely to provide an excitatory HD input to the entorhinal cortex. FS interneurons were weakly head directional and, surprisingly, showed no theta-rhythmic firing. Therefore, the presubiculum appears to encode HD information via excitatory pyramidal cells, possibly also involving FS interneurons, without using a theta-rhythmic temporal code.

Keywords: head direction; juxtacellular; presubiculum; theta.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Head Movements / physiology*
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Parahippocampal Gyrus / cytology*
  • Parvalbumins
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Theta Rhythm / physiology*


  • Parvalbumins