Methodological Caveats in the Detection of Coordinated Replay between Place Cells and Grid Cells

Front Syst Neurosci. 2017 Aug 2;11:57. doi: 10.3389/fnsys.2017.00057. eCollection 2017.


At rest, hippocampal "place cells," neurons with receptive fields corresponding to specific spatial locations, reactivate in a manner that reflects recently traveled trajectories. These "replay" events have been proposed as a mechanism underlying memory consolidation, or the transfer of a memory representation from the hippocampus to neocortical regions associated with the original sensory experience. Accordingly, it has been hypothesized that hippocampal replay of a particular experience should be accompanied by simultaneous reactivation of corresponding representations in the neocortex and in the entorhinal cortex, the primary interface between the hippocampus and the neocortex. Recent studies have reported that coordinated replay may occur between hippocampal place cells and medial entorhinal cortex grid cells, cells with multiple spatial receptive fields. Assessing replay in grid cells is problematic, however, as the cells exhibit regularly spaced spatial receptive fields in all environments and, therefore, coordinated replay between place cells and grid cells may be detected by chance. In the present report, we adapted analytical approaches utilized in recent studies of grid cell and place cell replay to determine the extent to which coordinated replay is spuriously detected between grid cells and place cells recorded from separate rats. For a subset of the employed analytical methods, coordinated replay was detected spuriously in a significant proportion of cases in which place cell replay events were randomly matched with grid cell firing epochs of equal duration. More rigorous replay evaluation procedures and minimum spike count requirements greatly reduced the amount of spurious findings. These results provide insights into aspects of place cell and grid cell activity during rest that contribute to false detection of coordinated replay. The results further emphasize the need for careful controls and rigorous methods when testing the hypothesis that place cells and grid cells exhibit coordinated replay.

Keywords: CA1; grid cells; hippocampus; medial entorhinal cortex; place cells; reactivation; replay.