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Awake Hippocampal Sharp-Wave Ripples Support Spatial Memory

Science  15 Jun 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6087, pp. 1454-1458
DOI: 10.1126/science.1217230

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Abstract

The hippocampus is critical for spatial learning and memory. Hippocampal neurons in awake animals exhibit place field activity that encodes current location, as well as sharp-wave ripple (SWR) activity during which representations based on past experiences are often replayed. The relationship between these patterns of activity and the memory functions of the hippocampus is poorly understood. We interrupted awake SWRs in animals learning a spatial alternation task. We observed a specific learning and performance deficit that persisted throughout training. This deficit was associated with awake SWR activity, as SWR interruption left place field activity and post-experience SWR reactivation intact. These results provide a link between awake SWRs and hippocampal memory processes, which suggests that awake replay of memory-related information during SWRs supports learning and memory-guided decision-making.

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