Repeating spatial activations in human entorhinal cortex

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Abstract

Summary The ability to remember and navigate spatial environments is critical for everyday life. A primary mechanism by which the brain represents space is through hippocampal place cells, which indicate when an animal is at a particular location [1]. An important issue is understanding how the hippocampal place-cell network represents specific properties of the environment, such as signifying that a particular position is near a doorway or that another position is near the end of a corridor. The entorhinal cortex (EC), as the main input to the hippocampus, may play a key role in coding these properties because it contains neurons that activate at multiple related positions per environment [2-6]. We examined the diversity of spatial coding across the human medial temporal lobe by recording neuronal activity during virtual navigation of an environment containing four similar paths. Neurosurgical patients performed this task as we recorded from implanted microelectrodes, allowing us to compare the human neuronal representation of space with that of animals. EC neurons activated in a repeating manner across the environment, with individual cells spiking at the same relative location across multiple paths. This finding indicates that EC cells represent non-specific information about location relative to an environment's geometry, unlike hippocampal place cells, which activate at particular random locations. Given that spatial navigation is considered to be a model of how the brain supports non-spatial episodic memory [7-10], these findings suggest that EC neuronal activity is used by the hippocampus to represent the properties of different memory episodes [2, 11].

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Miller, J. F., Fried, I., Suthana, N., & Jacobs, J. (2015). Repeating spatial activations in human entorhinal cortex. Current Biology, 25(8), 1080–1085. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2015.02.045

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