The identity of phase-precessing cells in the entorhinal cortex is unknown. Here, we used a classifier derived from cell-attached recordings to separate putative pyramidal cells and putative stellate cells recorded extracellularly in layer II of the medial entorhinal cortex in rats. Using a novel method to identify single runs as temporal periods of elevated spiking activity, we find that both cell types show phase precession but putative stellate cells show steeper slopes of phase precession and larger phase ranges. As the two classes of cells have different projection patterns, phase precession is differentially passed on to different subregions of the hippocampal formation.
Significance statement: It is a great challenge for neuroscience to reveal the cellular basis of cognitive functions. One such function is the ability to learn and recollect temporal sequences of events. The representation of sequences in the brain is thought to require temporally structured activity of nerve cells. How different types of neurons generate temporally structured activity is currently unknown. In the present study, we use a computational classification procedure to separate different cell types and find that a subpopulation of cells, so-called stellate neurons, exhibits clear temporal coding. Contrary to the stellate cells, pyramidal cells show weaker temporal coding. This discovery sheds light on the cellular basis of temporal coding in the brain.
Keywords: entorhinal cortex; hippocampus; phase precession; pyramidal cell; stellate cell; temporal code.
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