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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2001 Nov;76(3):298-313.

Hippocampal theta oscillations and classical conditioning.

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  • 1Department of Psychology and Center for Neuroscience, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio 45056, USA.


Studies are reviewed that support a hypothesized role for hippocampal theta oscillations in the neural plasticity underlying behavioral learning. Begun in Richard F. Thompson's laboratory in the 1970s, these experiments have documented a relationship between free-running 3- to 7-Hz hippocampal slow waves (theta) and rates of acquisition in rabbit classical nictitating membrane (NM) conditioning. Lesion and drug manipulations of septohippocampal projections have affected NM and jaw movement conditioning in ways consistent with a theta-related brain state being an important modulator of behavioral acquisition. These findings provide essential empirical support for the recently developed neurobiological and computational models that posit an important role for rhythmic oscillations (such as theta) in cellular plasticity and behavioral learning.

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