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Gaze-informed, task-situated representation of space in primate hippocampus

Gaze-informed, task-situated representation of space in primate hippocampus

Wirth, S., Baraduc, P., Planté, A., Pinède, S. & Duhamel, J.-R. 2017 Gaze-informed, task-situated representation of space in primate hippocampus during virtual navigation. PLOS Biology 15, e2001045. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.2001045. Wirth1 2017

In the brain of mammalian species, the hippocampus is a key structure for episodic and spatial memory and is home to neurons coding a selective location in space (“place cells”). These neurons have been mostly investigated in the rat. However, species such as rodents and primates have access to different olfactory and visual information, and it is still unclear how their hippocampal cells compare. By analyzing hippocampal activity of nonhuman primates (rhesus macaques) while they searched a virtual environment for a reward, we show that space coding is more complex than a mere position or orientation selectivity. Rather, space is represented as a combination of visually derived information and task-related knowledge. Here, we uncover how this multidimensional representation emerges from gazing at the environment at key moments of the animal’s exploration of space. We show that neurons are active for precise positions and actions related to the landmarks gazed at by the animals. Neurons were even found to anticipate the appearance of landmarks, sometimes responding to a landmark that was not yet visible. Overall, the place fields of primate hippocampal neurons appear as the projection of a multidimensional memory onto physical space.

  • 08 March 2017
  • Animal Navigation Group

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