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Geometric determinants of the place fields of hippocampal neurons


THE human hippocampus has been implicated in memory1, in particular episodic2,3 or declarative4 memory. In rats, hippocampal lesions cause selective spatial deficits2,5–7, and hippocampal complex spike cells (place cells) exhibit spatially localized firing8,9, suggesting a role in spatial memory2, although broader functions have also been suggested10,11. Here we report the identification of the environmental features controlling the location and shape of the receptive fields (place fields) of the place cells. This was done by recording from the same cell in four rectangular boxes that differed solely in the length of one or both sides. Most of our results are explained by a model in which the place field is formed by the summation of gaussian tuning curves, each oriented perpendicular to a box wall and peaked at a fixed distance from it.

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O'Keefe, J., Burgess, N. Geometric determinants of the place fields of hippocampal neurons. Nature 381, 425–428 (1996).

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