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Concept: Entorhinal cortex


A specific memory is thought to be encoded by a sparse population of neurons. These neurons can be tagged during learning for subsequent identification and manipulation. Moreover, their ablation or inactivation results in reduced memory expression, suggesting their necessity in mnemonic processes. However, the question of sufficiency remains: it is unclear whether it is possible to elicit the behavioural output of a specific memory by directly activating a population of neurons that was active during learning. Here we show in mice that optogenetic reactivation of hippocampal neurons activated during fear conditioning is sufficient to induce freezing behaviour. We labelled a population of hippocampal dentate gyrus neurons activated during fear learning with channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2) and later optically reactivated these neurons in a different context. The mice showed increased freezing only upon light stimulation, indicating light-induced fear memory recall. This freezing was not detected in non-fear-conditioned mice expressing ChR2 in a similar proportion of cells, nor in fear-conditioned mice with cells labelled by enhanced yellow fluorescent protein instead of ChR2. Finally, activation of cells labelled in a context not associated with fear did not evoke freezing in mice that were previously fear conditioned in a different context, suggesting that light-induced fear memory recall is context specific. Together, our findings indicate that activating a sparse but specific ensemble of hippocampal neurons that contribute to a memory engram is sufficient for the recall of that memory. Moreover, our experimental approach offers a general method of mapping cellular populations bearing memory engrams.

Concepts: Psychology, Memory, Hippocampus, Dentate gyrus, Neurogenesis, Granule cell, Entorhinal cortex, Channelrhodopsin


The dentate gyrus (DG) is a region in the hippocampal formation whose function declines in association with human aging and is therefore considered to be a possible source of age-related memory decline. Causal evidence is needed, however, to show that DG-associated memory decline in otherwise healthy elders can be improved by interventions that enhance DG function. We addressed this issue by first using a high-resolution variant of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to map the precise site of age-related DG dysfunction and to develop a cognitive task whose function localized to this anatomical site. Then, in a controlled randomized trial, we applied these tools to study healthy 50-69-year-old subjects who consumed either a high or low cocoa-containing diet for 3 months. A high-flavanol intervention was found to enhance DG function, as measured by fMRI and by cognitive testing. Our findings establish that DG dysfunction is a driver of age-related cognitive decline and suggest non-pharmacological means for its amelioration.

Concepts: Psychology, Brain, Nutrition, Magnetic resonance imaging, Cognition, Cerebrum, Dentate gyrus, Entorhinal cortex


Memories can be unreliable. We created a false memory in mice by optogenetically manipulating memory engram-bearing cells in the hippocampus. Dentate gyrus (DG) or CA1 neurons activated by exposure to a particular context were labeled with channelrhodopsin-2. These neurons were later optically reactivated during fear conditioning in a different context. The DG experimental group showed increased freezing in the original context, in which a foot shock was never delivered. The recall of this false memory was context-specific, activated similar downstream regions engaged during natural fear memory recall, and was also capable of driving an active fear response. Our data demonstrate that it is possible to generate an internally represented and behaviorally expressed fear memory via artificial means.

Concepts: Amygdala, Memory, Dentate gyrus, Neurogenesis, Granule cell, Fear, Amnesia, Entorhinal cortex


The medial temporal structures, including the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex, are critical for the ability to transform daily experience into lasting memories. We tested the hypothesis that deep-brain stimulation of the hippocampus or entorhinal cortex alters memory performance.

Concepts: Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Limbic system, Entorhinal cortex


Oxytocin receptor (Oxtr) signaling in neural circuits mediating discrimination of social stimuli and affiliation or avoidance behavior is thought to guide social recognition. Remarkably, the physiological functions of Oxtrs in the hippocampus are not known. Here we demonstrate using genetic and pharmacological approaches that Oxtrs in the anterior dentate gyrus (aDG) and anterior CA2/CA3 (aCA2/CA3) of mice are necessary for discrimination of social, but not non-social, stimuli. Further, Oxtrs in aCA2/CA3 neurons recruit a population-based coding mechanism to mediate social stimuli discrimination. Optogenetic terminal-specific attenuation revealed a critical role for aCA2/CA3 outputs to posterior CA1 for discrimination of social stimuli. In contrast, aCA2/CA3 projections to aCA1 mediate discrimination of non-social stimuli. These studies identify a role for an aDG-CA2/CA3 axis of Oxtr expressing cells in discrimination of social stimuli and delineate a pathway relaying social memory computations in the anterior hippocampus to the posterior hippocampus to guide social recognition.

Concepts: Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Dentate gyrus, Neurogenesis, Granule cell, Neurotransmitter, Entorhinal cortex


Adult-born granule cells (GCs), a minor population of cells in the hippocampal dentate gyrus, are highly active during the first few weeks after functional integration into the neuronal network, distinguishing them from less active, older adult-born GCs and the major population of dentate GCs generated developmentally. To ascertain whether young and old GCs perform distinct memory functions, we created a transgenic mouse in which output of old GCs was specifically inhibited while leaving a substantial portion of young GCs intact. These mice exhibited enhanced or normal pattern separation between similar contexts, which was reduced following ablation of young GCs. Furthermore, these mutant mice exhibited deficits in rapid pattern completion. Therefore, pattern separation requires adult-born young GCs but not old GCs, and older GCs contribute to the rapid recall by pattern completion. Our data suggest that as adult-born GCs age, their function switches from pattern separation to rapid pattern completion.

Concepts: Gene, Memory, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Dentate gyrus, Neurogenesis, Granule cell, Entorhinal cortex


The hippocampus, including the dorsal dentate gyrus (dDG), and cortex engage in bidirectional communication. We propose that low-frequency activity in hippocampal-cortical pathways contributes to brain-wide resting-state connectivity to integrate sensory information. Using optogenetic stimulation and brain-wide fMRI and resting-state fMRI (rsfMRI), we determined the large-scale effects of spatiotemporal-specific downstream propagation of hippocampal activity. Low-frequency (1 Hz), but not high-frequency (40 Hz), stimulation of dDG excitatory neurons evoked robust cortical and subcortical brain-wide fMRI responses. More importantly, it enhanced interhemispheric rsfMRI connectivity in various cortices and hippocampus. Subsequent local field potential recordings revealed an increase in slow oscillations in dorsal hippocampus and visual cortex, interhemispheric visual cortical connectivity, and hippocampal-cortical connectivity. Meanwhile, pharmacological inactivation of dDG neurons decreased interhemispheric rsfMRI connectivity. Functionally, visually evoked fMRI responses in visual regions also increased during and after low-frequency dDG stimulation. Together, our results indicate that low-frequency activity robustly propagates in the dorsal hippocampal-cortical pathway, drives interhemispheric cortical rsfMRI connectivity, and mediates visual processing.

Concepts: Brain, Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Neurogenesis, Granule cell, Schizophrenia, Pyramidal cell, Entorhinal cortex


This fMRI study examined recall and familiarity for words and scenes using the novel recognition without cued recall (RWCR) paradigm. Subjects performed a cued recall task in which half of the test cues resembled studied items (and thus were familiar) and half did not. Subjects also judged the familiarity of the cue itself. RWCR is the finding that, among cues for which recall fails, subjects generally rate cues that resemble studied items as more familiar than cues that do not. For words, left and right hippocampal activity increased when recall succeeded relative to when it failed. When recall failed, right hippocampal activity was decreased for familiar relative to unfamiliar cues. In contrast, right Prc activity increased for familiar cues for which recall failed relative to both familiar cues for which recall succeeded and to unfamiliar cues. For scenes, left hippocampal activity increased when recall succeeded relative to when it failed but did not differentiate familiar from unfamiliar cues when recall failed. In contrast, right Prc activity increased for familiar relative to unfamiliar cues when recall failed. Category-specific cortical regions showed effects unique to their respective stimulus types: The visual word form area (VWFA) showed effects for recall vs. familiarity specific to words, and the parahippocampal place area (PPA) showed effects for recall vs. familiarity specific to scenes. In both cases, these effects were such that there was increased activity occurring during recall relative to when recall failed, and decreased activity occurring for familiar relative to unfamiliar cues when recall failed.

Concepts: Cerebral cortex, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Limbic system, Entorhinal cortex, Relative direction, Perirhinal cortex, Parahippocampal gyrus


Adult hippocampal neurogenesis is considered important for cognition. The integration of newborn dentate gyrus granule cells into the existing network is regulated by afferent neuronal activity of unspecified origin. Here we combine rabies virus-mediated retrograde tracing with retroviral labelling of new granule cells (21, 30, 60, 90 days after injection) to selectively identify and quantify their monosynaptic inputs in vivo. Our results show that newborn granule cells receive afferents from intra-hippocampal cells (interneurons, mossy cells, area CA3 and transiently, mature granule cells) and septal cholinergic cells. Input from distal cortex (perirhinal (PRH) and lateral entorhinal cortex (LEC)) is sparse 21 days after injection and increases over time. Patch-clamp recordings support innervation by the LEC rather than from the medial entorhinal cortex. Mice with excitotoxic PRH/LEC lesions exhibit deficits in pattern separation but not in water maze learning. Thus, PRH/LEC input is an important functional component of new dentate gyrus neuron circuitry.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Dentate gyrus, Neurogenesis, Granule cell, Entorhinal cortex


Researchers have observed unsustainable neurogenesis of the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus, as well as cognitive improvements in short-term imipramine-treated mice following a controlled cortical impact (CCI) model of traumatic brain injury (TBI). But they have yet to investigate the effects of a longer-duration imipramine treatment. In this study, we investigated the effects of a longer treatment regimen on rats following a fluid percussion injury (FPI) model, which creates a brain injury that more closely resembles those incurred by human patients.

Concepts: Brain, Traumatic brain injury, Cerebrum, Hippocampus, Dentate gyrus, Neurogenesis, Granule cell, Entorhinal cortex