Since the discovery of place cells, hippocampus-dependent spatial navigation has proven to be an ideal model system for resolving the relationship between neural coding and behavior. Electrical recordings from the hippocampal formation in freely moving animals have revealed a rich repertoire of spatial firing patterns and have enormously advanced our understanding of the neural principles of spatial representation. However, limited progress has been achieved in resolving the underlying cellular mechanisms. This is partially attributable to the inability of standard recording techniques to link neuronal structure to function directly. In this review, we summarize recent efforts aimed at filling this gap. We also highlight the development of methodologies that allow functional measurements from identified neuronal elements in behaving rodents. Recent progress in the dentate gyrus serves as a showcase to reveal the potential of such methodologies and the necessity of resolving structure-function relationships in order to access the cellular mechanisms of hippocampal circuit computations.
Keywords: Hippocampus; Memory; Place cells; Spatial cognition; Spatial navigation.