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Attractor Dynamics in the Hippocampal Representation of the Local Environment

Science  06 May 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5723, pp. 873-876
DOI: 10.1126/science.1108905

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Abstract

Memories are thought to be attractor states of neuronal representations, with the hippocampus a likely substrate for context-dependent episodic memories. However, such states have not been directly observed. For example, the hippocampal place cell representation of location was previously found to respond continuously to changes in environmental shape alone. We report that exposure to novel square and circular environments made of different materials creates attractor representations for both shapes: Place cells abruptly and simultaneously switch between representations as environmental shape changes incrementally. This enables study of attractor dynamics in a cognitive representation and may correspond to the formation of distinct contexts in context-dependent memory.

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