Reverse replay of behavioural sequences in hippocampal place cells during the awake state


The hippocampus has long been known to be involved in spatial navigational learning in rodents1,2, and in memory for events in rodents3,4, primates5 and humans6. A unifying property of both navigation and event memory is a requirement for dealing with temporally sequenced information. Reactivation of temporally sequenced memories for previous behavioural experiences has been reported in sleep in rats7,8. Here we report that sequential replay occurs in the rat hippocampus during awake periods immediately after spatial experience. This replay has a unique form, in which recent episodes of spatial experience are replayed in a temporally reversed order. This replay is suggestive of a role in the evaluation of event sequences in the manner of reinforcement learning models. We propose that such replay might constitute a general mechanism of learning and memory.

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Figure 1: A sequence of place fields.
Figure 2: Reverse replay events during a single lap.
Figure 3: Reverse replay events, by lap, for an entire recording session.
Figure 4: Analysis of reverse replay across all recording sessions.


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We thank V. Ego-Stengel, P. Dayan and M. Fee for comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by an NIH grant to M.A.W.

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Correspondence to David J. Foster.

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Foster, D., Wilson, M. Reverse replay of behavioural sequences in hippocampal place cells during the awake state. Nature 440, 680–683 (2006).

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