Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Decreases Spatial Information Content and Reduces Place Field Stability of Hippocampal CA1 Neurons

J Neurotrauma. 2020 Jan 15;37(2):227-235. doi: 10.1089/neu.2019.6766. Epub 2019 Oct 11.


Both clinical and experimental studies have reported that mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) can result in cognitive impairments in the absence of overt brain damage. Whether these impairments result from neuronal dysfunction/altered plasticity is an area that has received limited attention. In this study, we recorded activity of neurons in the cornu Ammonis (CA)1 subfield of the hippocampus in sham and mild lateral fluid percussion injured (mFPI) rats while these animals were performing an object location task. Electrophysiology results showed that the number of excitatory neurons encoding spatial information (i.e., place cells) was reduced in mFPI rats, and that these cells had broader and less stable place fields. Additionally, the in-field firing rate of place cells in sham operated, but not in mFPI, animals increased when objects within the testing arena were moved. Immunostaining indicated no visible damage or overall neuronal loss in mFPI brain sections. However, a reduction in the number of parvalbumin-positive inhibitory neurons in the CA1 subfield of mFPI animals was observed, suggesting that this reduction could have influenced place cell physiology. Alterations in spatial information content, place cell stability, and activity in mFPI rats coincided with poor performance in the object location task. These results indicate that altered place cell physiology may underlie the hippocampus-dependent cognitive impairments that result from mTBI.

Keywords: hippocampus; multi-electrode recording; object location task; parvalbumin-positive inhibitory neurons; place cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Concussion / physiopathology*
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Neurons / pathology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Spatial Navigation / physiology*