Context-dependent representations of objects and space in the primate hippocampus during virtual navigation

Nat Neurosci. 2020 Jan;23(1):103-112. doi: 10.1038/s41593-019-0548-3. Epub 2019 Dec 23.


The hippocampus is implicated in associative memory and spatial navigation. To investigate how these functions are mixed in the hippocampus, we recorded from single hippocampal neurons in macaque monkeys navigating a virtual maze during a foraging task and a context-object associative memory task. During both tasks, single neurons encoded information about spatial position; a linear classifier also decoded position. However, the population code for space did not generalize across tasks, particularly where stimuli relevant to the associative memory task appeared. Single-neuron and population-level analyses revealed that cross-task changes were due to selectivity for nonspatial features of the associative memory task when they were visually available (perceptual coding) and following their disappearance (mnemonic coding). Our results show that neurons in the primate hippocampus nonlinearly mix information about space and nonspatial elements of the environment in a task-dependent manner; this efficient code flexibly represents unique perceptual experiences and correspondent memories.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Space Perception / physiology
  • Spatial Navigation / physiology*

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