Citation Calton JL, Stackman RW, Goodridge JP, Archey WB, Dudchenko P & Taube JS (2003) Hippocampal Place Cell Instability after Lesions of the Head Direction Cell Network. Journal of Neuroscience, 23 (30), pp. 9719-9731. http://www.jneurosci.org/content/23/30/9719.abstract
Abstract The occurrence of cells that encode spatial location (place cells) or head direction (HD cells) in the rat limbic system suggests that these cell types are important for spatial navigation. We sought to determine whether place fields of hippocampal CA1 place cells would be altered in animals receiving lesions of brain areas containing HD cells. Rats received bilateral lesions of anterodorsal thalamic nuclei (ADN), postsubiculum (PoS), or sham lesions, before place cell recording. Although place cells from lesioned animals did not differ from controls on many place-field characteristics, such as place-field size and infield firing rate, the signal was significantly degraded with respect to measures of outfield firing rate, spatial coherence, and information content. Surprisingly, place cells from lesioned animals were more likely modulated by the directional heading of the animal. Rotation of the landmark cue showed that place fields from PoS-lesioned animals were not controlled by the cue and shifted unpredictably between sessions. Although fields from ADN-lesioned animals tended to have less landmark control than fields from control animals, this impairment was mild compared with cells recorded from PoS-lesioned animals. Removal of the prominent visual cue also led to instability of place-field representations in PoS-lesioned, but not ADN-lesioned, animals. Together, these findings suggest that an intact HD system is not necessary for the maintenance of place fields, but lesions of brain areas that convey the HD signal can degrade this signal, and lesions of the PoS might lead to perceptual or mnemonic deficits, leading to place-field instability between sessions.