Segmentation of spatial experience by hippocampal theta sequences

Anoopum S. Gupta, Matthijs A.A. Van Der Meer, David S. Touretzky, A. David Redish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

215 Scopus citations


The encoding and storage of experience by the hippocampus is essential for the formation of episodic memories and the transformation of individual experiences into semantic structures such as maps and schemas. The rodent hippocampus compresses ongoing experience into repeating theta sequences, but the factors determining the content of theta sequences are not understood. Here we first show that the spatial paths represented by theta sequences in rats extend farther in front of the rat during acceleration and higher running speeds and begin farther behind the rat during deceleration. Second, the length of the path is directly related to the length of the theta cycle and the number of gamma cycles in it. Finally, theta sequences represent the environment in segments or 'chunks'. These results imply that information encoded in theta sequences is subject to powerful modulation by behavior and task variables. Furthermore, these findings suggest a potential mechanism for the cognitive 'chunking' of experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1032-1039
Number of pages8
JournalNature neuroscience
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank C. Boldt, K.D. Seeland and A.P. Steiner for technical assistance and A. Johnson and the members of the Redish lab for discussion. This work was supported by US National Institutes of Health grants (R01 MH-080318 and F30 MH-091821), the Pennsylvania Department of Health and a US National Science Foundation Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship grant (DGE-0549352).


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