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Nat Commun. 2017 Aug 15;8(1):243. doi: 10.1038/s41467-017-00180-9.

Sparse orthogonal population representation of spatial context in the retrosplenial cortex.

Mao D1,2, Kandler S1,3, McNaughton BL1,2, Bonin V4,5,6,7.

Author information

Neuro-Electronics Research Flanders, Kapeldreef 75, Leuven, B-3001, Belgium.
Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience, Department of Neuroscience, University of Lethbridge, 4401 University Drive, Lethbridge, Canada, AB T1K 3M4.
Imec, Kapeldreef 75, Leuven, B-3001, Belgium.
Neuro-Electronics Research Flanders, Kapeldreef 75, Leuven, B-3001, Belgium.
Imec, Kapeldreef 75, Leuven, B-3001, Belgium.
VIB, Leuven, 3001, Belgium.
Department of Biology, KU Leuven, Naamsestraat 59, Leuven, 3000, Belgium.


Sparse orthogonal coding is a key feature of hippocampal neural activity, which is believed to increase episodic memory capacity and to assist in navigation. Some retrosplenial cortex (RSC) neurons convey distributed spatial and navigational signals, but place-field representations such as observed in the hippocampus have not been reported. Combining cellular Ca2+ imaging in RSC of mice with a head-fixed locomotion assay, we identified a population of RSC neurons, located predominantly in superficial layers, whose ensemble activity closely resembles that of hippocampal CA1 place cells during the same task. Like CA1 place cells, these RSC neurons fire in sequences during movement, and show narrowly tuned firing fields that form a sparse, orthogonal code correlated with location. RSC 'place' cell activity is robust to environmental manipulations, showing partial remapping similar to that observed in CA1. This population code for spatial context may assist the RSC in its role in memory and/or navigation.Neurons in the retrosplenial cortex (RSC) encode spatial and navigational signals. Here the authors use calcium imaging to show that, similar to the hippocampus, RSC neurons also encode place cell-like activity in a sparse orthogonal representation, partially anchored to the allocentric cues on the linear track.

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