Theta-paced flickering between place-cell maps in the hippocampus: A model based on short-term synaptic plasticity

Shirley Mark, Sandro Romani, Karel Jezek, Misha Tsodyks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hippocampal place cells represent different environments with distinct neural activity patterns. Following an abrupt switch between two familiar configurations of visual cues defining two environments, the hippocampal neural activity pattern switches almost immediately to the corresponding representation. Surprisingly, during a transient period following the switch to the new environment, occasional fast transitions between the two activity patterns (flickering) were observed (Jezek, Henriksen, Treves, Moser, & Moser, ). Here we show that an attractor neural network model of place cells with connections endowed with short-term synaptic plasticity can account for this phenomenon. A memory trace of the recent history of network activity is maintained in the state of the synapses, allowing the network to temporarily reactivate the representation of the previous environment in the absence of the corresponding sensory cues. The model predicts that the number of flickering events depends on the amplitude of the ongoing theta rhythm and the distance between the current position of the animal and its position at the time of cue switching. We test these predictions with new analysis of experimental data. These results suggest a potential role of short-term synaptic plasticity in recruiting the activity of different cell assemblies and in shaping hippocampal activity of behaving animals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)959-970
Number of pages12
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2017


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