Spatial firing of hippocampal place cells varies depending on the animal's behavior relative to its goals. Here, rats were trained to approach visually guided reward ports in a two-dimensional open field. Hippocampal place cells encoded two independent pieces of information, spatial representation and goal-directed representation, by amplifying firing rates within their place fields specifically while the animal was moving toward a specific goal location. Irrespective of running speed and direction, substantial place-selective firing was observed that sustained a basal spatial map independent of goal-directed signals. When animals were allowed to freely forage in the field, in-field firing rates similarly increased when the animals transiently ran toward remembered goal locations. Disruption of medial septal activity significantly decreased goal-directed firing while maintaining spatial representation patterns. The findings indicate that the integrated encoding of spatial and goal-directed signals by hippocampal circuits is crucial for flexible spatial navigation to a goal location.
Keywords: goal-directed behavior; hippocampus; medial septum; place cells; theta oscillation.
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