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Do hippocampal pyramidal cells respond to nonspatial stimuli?

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O'Keefe, John 


There are currently a number of theories of rodent hippocampal function. They fall into two major groups that differ in the role they impute to space in hippocampal information processing. On one hand, the cognitive map theory sees space as crucial and central, with other types of nonspatial information embedded in a primary spatial framework. On the other hand, most other theories see the function of the hippocampal formation as broader, treating all types of information as equivalent and concentrating on the processes carried out irrespective of the specific material being represented, stored, and manipulated. One crucial difference, therefore, is the extent to which theories see hippocampal pyramidal cells as representing nonspatial information independently of a spatial framework. Studies have reported the existence of single hippocampal unit responses to nonspatial stimuli, both to simple sensory inputs as well as to more complex stimuli such as objects, conspecifics, rewards, and time, and these findings been interpreted as evidence in favor of a broader hippocampal function. Alternatively, these nonspatial responses might actually be feature-in-place signals where the spatial nature of the response has been masked by the fact that the objects or features were only presented in one location or one spatial context. In this article, we argue that when tested in multiple locations, the hippocampal response to nonspatial stimuli is almost invariably dependent on the animal's location. Looked at collectively, the data provide strong support for the cognitive map theory.



cognitive map theory, hippocampal units, hippocampus, memory, place cells, Animals, Hippocampus, Memory, Place Cells, Pyramidal Cells

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Physiol Rev

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American Physiological Society


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Wellcome Trust (206682/Z/17/Z)
Isaac Newton Trust (17.37(t))
Kavli Foundation (unknown)
Royal Society (RSG/R1/180098)