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Nonspatial sequence coding varies along the CA1 transverse axis


The hippocampus plays a critical role in the memory for sequences of events, a defining feature of episodic memory. To shed light on the fundamental mechanisms supporting this capacity, we recently recorded neural activity in CA1 as rats performed a nonspatial odor sequence memory task. Our main finding was that, while the animals' location and behavior remained constant, a proportion of CA1 neurons fired differentially to odors depending on whether they were presented in or out of sequence (sequence cells). Here, we further examined if such sequence coding varied along the distal-to-proximal axis of the dorsal CA1 region (distal: toward subiculum; proximal: toward CA3). Differences in information processing along this axis have been suggested by recent anatomical and electrophysiological evidence that odor information may be more strongly represented in the distal segment, whereas spatial information may be more strongly represented in the proximal segment. Recorded neurons were grouped into four arbitrary sections of dorsal CA1, ranging from distal to proximal. We found that, although sequence cell coding was observed across the distal-to-proximal extent of CA1 from which we recorded, it was significantly higher in intermediate CA1, a region with more balanced anatomical input from lateral and medial entorhinal regions. More specifically, in that particular segment of CA1, we observed a significant increase in the magnitude of sequence coding of all cells, as well as in the sequential information content of sequence cells. Importantly, a different pattern was observed when examining the distribution of spatial coding from the same electrodes. Consistent with previous reports, our results suggest that spatial information was more strongly represented in the proximal section of CA1 (higher proportion of cells with place fields). These findings indicate that nonspatial sequence memory coding is not uniformly distributed along the transverse axis of CA1, and that this distribution does not simply follow the expected gradient based on the stimulus modality or the degree of spatial selectivity. Instead, the observed distribution suggests this form of sequence coding may be associated with convergent input from lateral and medial entorhinal regions, which is present throughout the proximodistal axis but greater in intermediate CA1.

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