Single-unit analysis of different hippocampal cell types during classical conditioning of rabbit nictitating membrane response

J Neurophysiol. 1983 Nov;50(5):1197-219. doi: 10.1152/jn.1983.50.5.1197.


Extracellular single-unit recordings from neurons in the CA1 and CA3 regions of the dorsal hippocampus were monitored during classical conditioning of the rabbit nictitating membrane response. Neurons were classified as different cell types using response to fornix stimulation (i.e., antidromic or orthodromic activation) and spontaneous firing characteristics as criteria. Results showed that hippocampal pyramidal neurons exhibit learning-related neural plasticity that develops gradually over the course of classical conditioning. The learning-dependent pyramidal cell response is characterized by an increase in frequency of firing within conditioning trials and a within-trial pattern of discharge that correlates strongly with amplitude-time course of the behavioral response. In contrast, pyramidal cell activity recorded from control animals given unpaired presentations of the conditioned and unconditioned stimulus (CS and UCS) does not show enhanced discharge rates with repeated stimulation. Previous studies of hippocampal cellular electrophysiology have described what has been termed a theta-cell (19-21, 45), the activity of which correlates with slow-wave theta rhythm generated in the hippocampus. Neurons classified as theta-cells in the present study exhibit responses during conditioning that are distinctly different than pyramidal cells. theta-Cells respond during paired conditioning trials with a rhythmic bursting; the between-burst interval occurs at or near 8 Hz. In addition, two different types of theta-cells were distinguishable. One type of theta-cell increases firing frequency above pretrial levels while displaying the theta bursting pattern. The other type decreases firing frequency below pretrial rates while showing a theta-locked discharge. In addition to pyramidal and theta-neurons, several other cell types recorded in or near the pyramidal cell layer could be distinguished. One cell type was distinctive in that it could be activated with a short, invariant latency following fornix stimulation, but spontaneous action potentials of such neurons could not be collided with fornix shock-induced action potentials. These neurons exhibit a different profile of spontaneous firing characteristics than those of antidromically identified pyramidal cells. Nevertheless, neurons in this noncollidable category display the same learning-dependent response as pyramidal cells. It is suggested that the noncollidable neurons represent a subpopulation of pyramidal cells that do not project an axon via the fornix but project, instead, to other limbic cortical regions.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Nictitating Membrane / physiology
  • Rabbits