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Evidence for encoding versus retrieval scheduling in the hippocampus by theta phase and acetylcholine

Douchamps, V. and Jeewajee, A. and Blundell, P. and Burgess, N. and Lever, C. (2013) 'Evidence for encoding versus retrieval scheduling in the hippocampus by theta phase and acetylcholine.', Journal of neuroscience., 33 (20). pp. 8689-8704.


The formation of new memories requires new information to be encoded in the face of proactive interference from the past. Two solutions have been proposed for hippocampal region CA1: (1) acetylcholine, released in novelty, selectively suppresses excitatory projections to CA1 from CA3 (mediating the products of retrieval), while sparing entorhinal inputs (mediating novel sensory information) and (2) encoding preferentially occurs at the pyramidal-layer theta peak, coincident with input from entorhinal cortex, and retrieval occurs at the trough, coincident with input from CA3, consistent with theta phase-dependent synaptic plasticity. We examined three predictions of these models: (1) in novel environments, the preferred theta phase of CA1 place cell firing should shift closer to the CA1 pyramidal-layer theta peak, shifting the encoding-retrieval balance toward encoding; (2) the encoding-related shift in novel environments should be disrupted by cholinergic antagonism; and (3) in familiar environments, cholinergic antagonism should shift the preferred theta firing phase closer to the theta trough, shifting the encoding-retrieval balance even further toward retrieval. We tested these predictions by recording from CA1 pyramidal cells in freely moving rats as they foraged in open field environments under the influence of scopolamine (an amnestic cholinergic antagonist) or vehicle (saline). Results confirmed all three predictions, supporting both the theta phase and cholinergic models of encoding versus retrieval dynamics. Also consistent with cholinergic enhancement of encoding, scopolamine attenuated the formation of distinct spatial representations in a new environment, reducing the extent of place cell “remapping.”

Item Type:Article
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Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:24 July 2013
Date of first online publication:May 2013
Date first made open access:No date available

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