Bat and Rat Neurons Differ in Theta-Frequency Resonance Despite Similar Coding of Space

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Science  19 Apr 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6130, pp. 363-367
DOI: 10.1126/science.1233831

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Bats, Grids, and Oscillations

Nearly all animals move around in a three-dimensional (3D) world; however, very little is known about the neural circuitry underlying the representation of 3D space (see the Perspective by Barry and Doeller). Using whole-cell patch recordings in slices of entorhinal cortex, Heys et al. (p. 363) found that bat entorhinal stellate cells must generate grid patterns without theta-frequency oscillatory mechanisms. In another study, Yartsev and Ulanovsky (p. 367) used telemetry to record activity from the hippocampus of bats while they were flying around. They found that active pyramidal cells—or place cells—in hippocampal area CA1 fired in positions, depending on where the animals were in the room.


Both bats and rats exhibit grid cells in medial entorhinal cortex that fire as they visit a regular array of spatial locations. In rats, grid-cell firing field properties correlate with theta-frequency rhythmicity of spiking and membrane-potential resonance; however, bat grid cells do not exhibit theta rhythmic spiking, generating controversy over the role of theta rhythm. To test whether this discrepancy reflects differences in rhythmicity at a cellular level, we performed whole-cell patch recordings from entorhinal neurons in both species to record theta-frequency resonance. Bat neurons showed no theta-frequency resonance, suggesting grid-cell coding via different mechanisms in bats and rats or lack of theta rhythmic contributions to grid-cell firing in either species.

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