Cortical-hippocampal processing: prefrontal-hippocampal contributions to the spatiotemporal relationship of events
Place, Ryan James
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The hippocampus and prefrontal cortex play distinct roles in the generation and retrieval of episodic memory. The hippocampus is crucial for binding inputs across behavioral timescales, whereas the prefrontal cortex is found to influence retrieval. Spiking of hippocampal principal neurons contains environmental information, including information about the presence of specific objects and their spatial or temporal position relative to environmental and behavioral cues. Neural activity in the prefrontal cortex is found to map behavioral sequences that share commonalities in sensory input, movement, and reward valence. Here I conducted a series of four experiments to test the hypothesis that external inputs from cortex update cell assemblies that are organized within the hippocampus. I propose that cortical inputs coordinate with CA3 to rapidly integrate information at fine timescales. Extracellular tetrode recordings of neurons in the orbitofrontal cortex were performed in rats during a task where object valences were dictated by the spatial context in which they were located. Orbitofrontal ensembles, during object sampling, were found to organize all measured task elements in inverse rank relative to the rank previously observed in the hippocampus, whereby orbitofrontal ensembles displayed greater differentiation for object valence and its contextual identity than spatial position. Using the same task, a follow-up experiment assessed coordination between prefrontal and hippocampal networks by simultaneously recording medial prefrontal and hippocampal activity. The circuit was found to coordinate at theta frequencies, whereby hippocampal theta engaged prefrontal signals during contextual sampling, and the order of engagement reversed during object sampling. Two additional experiments investigated hippocampal temporal representations. First, hippocampal patterns were found to represent conjunctions of time and odor during a head-fixed delayed match-to-sample task. Lastly, I assessed the dependence of hippocampal firing patterns on intrinsic connectivity during the delay period versus active navigation of spatial routes, as rats performed a delayed-alternation T-maze. Stimulation of the ventral hippocampal commissure induced remapping of hippocampal activity during the delay period selectively. Despite temporal reorganization, different hippocampal populations emerged to predict temporal position. These results show hippocampal representations are guided by stable cortical signals, but also, coordination between cortical and intrinsic circuitry stabilizes flexible CA1 temporal representations.