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Neuron. 2009 Dec 24;64(6):910-21. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2009.11.016.

Rewarded outcomes enhance reactivation of experience in the hippocampus.

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W.M. Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience and Department of Physiology, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143-0444, USA.


Remembering experiences that lead to reward is essential for survival. The hippocampus is required for forming and storing memories of events and places, but the mechanisms that associate specific experiences with rewarding outcomes are not understood. Event memory storage is thought to depend on the reactivation of previous experiences during hippocampal sharp wave ripples (SWRs). We used a sequence switching task that allowed us to examine the interaction between SWRs and reward. We compared SWR activity after animals traversed spatial trajectories and either received or did not receive a reward. Here, we show that rat hippocampal CA3 principal cells are significantly more active during SWRs following receipt of reward. This SWR activity was further enhanced during learning and reactivated coherent elements of the paths associated with the reward location. This enhanced reactivation in response to reward could be a mechanism to bind rewarding outcomes to the experiences that precede them.

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