Oscillations Go the Distance: Low-Frequency Human Hippocampal Oscillations Code Spatial Distance in the Absence of Sensory Cues during Teleportation

Neuron. 2016 Mar 16;89(6):1180-1186. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2016.01.045. Epub 2016 Feb 25.


Low-frequency (delta/theta band) hippocampal neural oscillations play prominent roles in computational models of spatial navigation, but their exact function remains unknown. Some theories propose they are primarily generated in response to sensorimotor processing, while others suggest a role in memory-related processing. We directly recorded hippocampal EEG activity in patients undergoing seizure monitoring while they explored a virtual environment containing teleporters. Critically, this manipulation allowed patients to experience movement through space in the absence of visual and self-motion cues. The prevalence and duration of low-frequency hippocampal oscillations were unchanged by this manipulation, indicating that sensorimotor processing was not required to elicit them during navigation. Furthermore, the frequency-wise pattern of oscillation prevalence during teleportation contained spatial information capable of classifying the distance teleported. These results demonstrate that movement-related sensory information is not required to drive spatially informative low-frequency hippocampal oscillations during navigation and suggest a specific function in memory-related spatial updating.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Waves / physiology*
  • Cues*
  • Drug Resistant Epilepsy / pathology
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Movement
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Spatial Memory / physiology*
  • Spatial Navigation / physiology*
  • User-Computer Interface