Network Dynamics Underlying the Formation of Sparse, Informative Representations in the Hippocampus
Journal of Neuroscience
During development, activity-dependent processes increase the specificity of neural responses to stimuli, but the role that this type of process plays in adult plasticity is unclear. We examined the dynamics of hippocampal activity as animals learned about new environments to understand how neural selectivity changes with experience. Hippocampal principal neurons fire when the animal is located in a particular subregion of its environment, and in any given environment the hippocampal
... ion is sparse: less than half of the neurons in areas CA1 and CA3 are active whereas the rest are essentially silent. Here we show that different dynamics govern the evolution of this sparsity in CA1 and upstream area CA3. CA1, but not CA3, produces twice as many spikes in novel compared with familiar environments. This high rate firing continues during sharp wave ripple events in a subsequent rest period. The overall CA1 population rate declines and the number of active cells decreases as the environment becomes familiar and task performance improves, but the decline in rate is not uniform across neurons. Instead, the activity of cells with initial peak spatial rates above ϳ12 Hz is enhanced, whereas the activity of cells with lower initial peak rates is suppressed. The result of these changes is that the active CA1 population comes to consist of a relatively small group of cells with strong spatial tuning. This process is not evident in CA3, indicating that a region-specific and long timescale process operates in CA1 to create a sparse, spatially informative population of neurons.