March 1, 2021

Place cells in head-fixed mice navigating a floating real-world environment

The hippocampal place cell system in rodents has provided a major paradigm for the scientific investigation of memory function and dysfunction. Place cells have been observed in area CA1 of the hippocampus of both freely moving animals, and of head-fixed animals navigating in virtual reality environments. However, spatial coding in virtual reality preparations has been observed to be impaired. Here we show that the use of a real-world environment system for head-fixed mice, consisting of a track floating on air, provides some advantages over virtual reality systems for the study of spatial memory. We imaged the hippocampus of head-fixed mice injected with the genetically encoded calcium indicator GCaMP6s while they navigated circularly constrained or open environments on the floating platform. We observed consistent place tuning in a substantial fraction of cells, stable over multiple days, with remapping of place fields when the animal entered a different environment. Spatial information rates were within the range observed in freely moving mice. Manifold analysis indicated that spatial information could be extracted from a low-dimensional subspace of the neural population dynamics. This is the first demonstration of place cells in head-fixed mice navigating on an air-lifted real-world platform, validating its use for the study of brain circuits involved in memory and affected by neurodegenerative disorders.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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