Animals process temporal information in an ever-changing environment, but the neuronal mechanisms of this process, especially on timescales longer than seconds, remain unresolved. Here, we designed a hippocampus-dependent task in which rats prospectively increased their reward-seeking behavior over a duration of minutes. During this timing behavior, hippocampal and striatal neurons represented successive time points on the order of minutes by gradually changing their firing rates and transiently increasing their firing rates at specific time points. These minute-encoding patterns progressively developed as the rats learned a time-reward relationship, and the patterns underwent flexible scaling in parallel with timing behavior. These observations suggest a neuronal basis in the hippocampal-striatal circuits that enables temporal processing and formation of episodic memory on a timescale of minutes.
Keywords: encoding; hippocampus; minutes; striatum; time.
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