The role of medial entorhinal cortex activity in hippocampal CA1 spatiotemporally correlated sequence generation and object selectivity for memory function
Robinson, Nicholas Timothy Mark
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The hippocampus is crucial for episodic memory and certain forms of spatial navigation. Firing activity of hippocampal principal neurons contains environmental information, including the presence of specific objects, as well as the animal’s spatial and temporal position relative to environmental and behavioral cues. The organization of these firing correlates may allow the formation of memory traces through the integration of object and event information onto a spatiotemporal framework of cell assemblies. Characterizing how external inputs guide internal dynamics in the hippocampus to enable this process across different experiences is crucial to understanding hippocampal function. A body of literature implicates the medial entorhinal cortex (MEC) in supplying spatial and temporal information to the hippocampus. Here we develop a protocol utilizing bilaterally implanted custom designed triple fiber optic arrays and the red-shifted inhibitory opsin JAWS to transiently inactivate large volumes of MEC in freely behaving rats. This was coupled with extracellular tetrode recording of ensembles in CA1 of the hippocampus during a novel memory task involving temporal, spatial and object related epochs, in order to assess the importance of MEC activity for hippocampal feature selectivity during a rich and familiar experience. We report that inactivation of MEC during a mnemonic temporal delay disrupts the existing temporal firing field sequence in CA1 both during and following the inactivation period. Neurons with firing fields prior to the inactivation on each trial remained relatively stable. The disruption of CA1 temporal firing field sequences was accompanied by a behavioral deficit implicating MEC activity and hippocampal temporal field sequences in effective memory across time. Inactivating MEC during the object or spatial epochs of the task did not significantly alter CA1 object selective or spatial firing fields and behavioral performance remained stable. Our findings suggest that MEC is crucial specifically for temporal field organization and expression during a familiar and rich experience. These results support a role for MEC in guiding hippocampal cell assembly sequences in the absence of salient changing stimuli, which may extend to the navigation of cognitive organization in humans and support memory formation and retrieval.