Long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD) are key cellular processes that support memory formation. Whereas increases of synaptic strength by means of LTP may support the creation of a spatial memory ‘engram’, LTD appears to play an important role in refining and optimising experience-dependent encoding. A differentiation in the role of hippocampal subfields is apparent. For example, LTD in the dentate gyrus (DG) is enabled by novel learning about large visuospatial features, whereas in area CA1, it is enabled by learning about discrete aspects of spatial content, whereby, both discrete visuospatial and olfactospatial cues trigger LTD in CA1. Here, we explored to what extent local audiospatial cues facilitate information encoding in the form of LTD in these subfields. Coupling of low frequency afferent stimulation (LFS) with discretely localised, novel auditory tones in the sonic hearing, or ultrasonic range, facilitated short-term depression (STD) into LTD (>24 h) in CA1, but not DG. Re-exposure to the now familiar audiospatial configuration ca. 1 week later failed to enhance STD. Reconfiguration of the same audiospatial cues resulted anew in LTD when ultrasound, but not non-ultrasound cues were used. LTD facilitation that was triggered by novel exposure to spatially arranged tones, or to spatial reconfiguration of the same tones were both prevented by an antagonism of the metabotropic glutamate receptor, mGlu5.
These data indicate that, if behaviourally salient enough, the hippocampus can use audiospatial cues to facilitate LTD that contributes to the encoding and updating of spatial representations. Effects are subfield-specific, and require mGlu5 activation, as is the case for visuospatial information processing. These data reinforce the likelihood that LTD supports the encoding of spatial features, and that this occurs in a qualitative and subfield-specific manner. They also support that mGlu5 is essential for synaptic encoding of spatial experience.
This article is part of the Special Issue entitled ‘Metabotropic Glutamate Receptors, 5 years on’.