Mouse Visual Cortex Is Modulated by Distance Traveled and by Theta Oscillations

Curr Biol. 2020 Oct 5;30(19):3811-3817.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.07.006. Epub 2020 Aug 6.


The visual responses of neurons in the primary visual cortex (V1) are influenced by the animal's position in the environment [1-5]. V1 responses encode positions that co-fluctuate with those encoded by place cells in hippocampal area CA1 [2, 5]. This correlation might reflect a common influence of non-visual spatial signals on both areas. Place cells in CA1, indeed, do not rely only on vision; their place preference depends on the physical distance traveled [6-11] and on the phase of the 6-9 Hz theta oscillation [12, 13]. Are V1 responses similarly influenced by these non-visual factors? We recorded V1 and CA1 neurons simultaneously while mice performed a spatial task in a virtual corridor by running on a wheel and licking at a reward location. By changing the gain that couples the wheel movement to the virtual environment, we found that ∼20% of V1 neurons were influenced by the physical distance traveled, as were ∼40% of CA1 place cells. Moreover, the firing rate of ∼24% of V1 neurons was modulated by the phase of theta oscillations recorded in CA1 and the response profiles of ∼7% of V1 neurons shifted spatially across the theta cycle, analogous to the phase precession observed in ∼37% of CA1 place cells. The influence of theta oscillations on V1 responses was more prominent in putative layer 6. These results reveal that, in a familiar environment, sensory processing in V1 is modulated by the key non-visual signals that influence spatial coding in the hippocampus.

Keywords: distance coding; hippocampus; navigation; primary visual cortex; theta oscillation; virtual reality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • CA1 Region, Hippocampal / physiology
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology
  • Reward
  • Spatial Behavior / physiology*
  • Theta Rhythm / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / metabolism
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*