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Where in the world? Spatial processing in the temporal cortex

D K Bilkey

Department of Psychology, University of Otago , Dunedin , New Zealand

The hippocampus has a critical role in certain kinds of spatial memory processes. Hippocampal “place” cells, fire selectively when an animal is in a particular location within the environment. It is thought that this activity underlies a representation of the environment that can be used for memory-based spatial navigation. But how is this representation constructed and how is it “read”? In recent work we have been investigating some of the ways in which activity in neighboring brain regions such as peri- and post-rhinal cortex, and pre- and para-subiculum influence the construction of the hippocampal spatial representation. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that regions such as perirhinal cortex may provide information to the hippocampus about the context in which the animal is currently operating. Our data also indicate that the way in which “context” modulates the spatial representation in the hippocampus is dependent on an animal’s previous experience. Finally we propose a simple mechanism by which hippocampal representations could be “read” by other brain regions for the purpose of navigation.