Behavior determines the hippocampal spatial mapping of a multisensory environment

Cell Rep. 2021 Aug 3;36(5):109444. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2021.109444. Epub 2021 Jul 21.


Animals behave in multisensory environments guided by various modalities of spatial information. Mammalian navigation engages a cognitive map of space in the hippocampus. Yet it is unknown whether and how this map incorporates multiple modalities of spatial information. Here, we establish two behavioral tasks in which mice navigate the same multisensory virtual environment by either pursuing a visual landmark or tracking an odor gradient. These tasks engage different proportions of visuo-spatial and olfacto-spatial mapping CA1 neurons and different population-level representations of each sensory-spatial coordinate. Switching between tasks results in global remapping. In a third task, mice pursue a target of varying sensory modality, and this engages modality-invariant neurons mapping the abstract behaviorally relevant coordinate irrespective of its physical modality. These findings demonstrate that the hippocampus does not necessarily map space as one coherent physical variable but as a combination of sensory and abstract reference frames determined by the subject's behavioral goal.

Keywords: 2-photon calcium imaging; Bayesian decoding; cognitive map; hippocampus; multisensory; odor; olfaction; place cells; virtual reality; vision.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Environment*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Olfactory Bulb / physiology
  • Sensation / physiology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Visual Perception / physiology