Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) disrupts hippocampal function and can lead to long-lasting episodic memory impairments. The encoding of episodic memories relies on spatial information processing within the hippocampus. As the primary entry point for spatial information into the hippocampus, the dentate gyrus is thought to function as a physiological gate, or filter, of afferent excitation before reaching downstream area Cornu Ammonis (CA3). Although injury has previously been shown to alter dentate gyrus network excitability, it is unknown whether mTBI affects dentate gyrus output to area CA3. In this study, we assessed hippocampal function, specifically the interaction between the dentate gyrus and CA3, using behavioral and electrophysiological techniques in ex vivo brain slices 1 week following mild lateral fluid percussion injury (LFPI). Behaviorally, LFPI mice were found to be impaired in an object-place recognition task, indicating that spatial information processing in the hippocampus is disrupted. Extracellular recordings and voltage-sensitive dye imaging demonstrated that perforant path activation leads to the aberrant spread of excitation from the dentate gyrus into area CA3 along the mossy fiber pathway. These results suggest that after mTBI, the dentate gyrus has a diminished capacity to regulate cortical input into the hippocampus, leading to increased CA3 network excitability. The loss of the dentate filtering efficacy reveals a potential mechanism by which hippocampal-dependent spatial information processing is disrupted, and may contribute to memory dysfunction after mTBI.
Keywords: LFPI; area CA3; dentate gyrus; mTBI; object-place recognition memory; perforant path.