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Hippocampus. 2014 Jun;24(6):693-702. doi: 10.1002/hipo.22260. Epub 2014 Feb 24.

Increase in hippocampal theta oscillations during spatial decision making.

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Brain Institute, Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil; Psychobiology Graduate Program, Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil.


The processing of spatial and mnemonic information is believed to depend on hippocampal theta oscillations (5-12 Hz). However, in rats both the power and the frequency of the theta rhythm are modulated by locomotor activity, which is a major confounding factor when estimating its cognitive correlates. Previous studies have suggested that hippocampal theta oscillations support decision-making processes. In this study, we investigated to what extent spatial decision making modulates hippocampal theta oscillations when controlling for variations in locomotion speed. We recorded local field potentials from the CA1 region of rats while animals had to choose one arm to enter for reward (goal) in a four-arm radial maze. We observed prominent theta oscillations during the decision-making period of the task, which occurred in the center of the maze before animals deliberately ran through an arm toward goal location. In speed-controlled analyses, theta power and frequency were higher during the decision period when compared to either an intertrial delay period (also at the maze center), or to the period of running toward goal location. In addition, theta activity was higher during decision periods preceding correct choices than during decision periods preceding incorrect choices. Altogether, our data support a cognitive function for the hippocampal theta rhythm in spatial decision making.


LFP; locomotion; oscillations; radial maze; spatial choice; speed

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