At the encounter with a novel environment, contextual memory formation is greatly enhanced, accompanied with increased arousal and active exploration. Although this phenomenon has been widely observed in animal and human daily life, how the novelty in the environment is detected and contributes to contextual memory formation has lately started to be unveiled. The hippocampus has been studied for many decades for its largely known roles in encoding spatial memory, and a growing body of evidence indicates a differential involvement of dorsal and ventral hippocampal divisions in novelty detection. In this brief review article, we discuss the recent findings of the role of mossy cells in the ventral hippocampal moiety in novelty detection and put them in perspective with other novelty-related pathways in the hippocampus. We propose a mechanism for novelty-driven memory acquisition in the dentate gyrus by the direct projection of ventral mossy cells to dorsal dentate granule cells. By this projection, the ventral hippocampus sends novelty signals to the dorsal hippocampus, opening a gate for memory encoding in dentate granule cells based on information coming from the entorhinal cortex. We conclude that, contrary to the presently accepted functional independence, the dorsal and ventral hippocampi cooperate to link the novelty and contextual information, and this dorso-ventral interaction is crucial for the novelty-dependent memory formation.
Keywords: Contextual memory; Dorso-ventral hippocampal axis; Environmental novelty; Hippocampus; Mossy cells; Theta rhythm.
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