Sound sensitivity of neurons in rat hippocampus during performance of a sound-guided task.
Itskov PM., Vinnik E., Honey C., Schnupp J., Diamond ME.
To investigate how hippocampal neurons encode sound stimuli, and the conjunction of sound stimuli with the animal's position in space, we recorded from neurons in the CA1 region of hippocampus in rats while they performed a sound discrimination task. Four different sounds were used, two associated with water reward on the right side of the animal and the other two with water reward on the left side. This allowed us to separate neuronal activity related to sound identity from activity related to response direction. To test the effect of spatial context on sound coding, we trained rats to carry out the task on two identical testing platforms at different locations in the same room. Twenty-one percent of the recorded neurons exhibited sensitivity to sound identity, as quantified by the difference in firing rate for the two sounds associated with the same response direction. Sensitivity to sound identity was often observed on only one of the two testing platforms, indicating an effect of spatial context on sensory responses. Forty-three percent of the neurons were sensitive to response direction, and the probability that any one neuron was sensitive to response direction was statistically independent from its sensitivity to sound identity. There was no significant coding for sound identity when the rats heard the same sounds outside the behavioral task. These results suggest that CA1 neurons encode sound stimuli, but only when those sounds are associated with actions.