Temporal Dynamics of Hippocampal and Medial Prefrontal Cortex Interactions During the Delay Period of a Working Memory-Guided Foraging Task

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Connections between the hippocampus (HC) and medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) are critical for working memory; however, the precise contribution of this pathway is a matter of debate. One suggestion is that it may stabilize retrospective memories of recently encountered task-relevant information. Alternatively, it may be involved in encoding prospective memories, or the internal representation of future goals. To explore these possibilities, simultaneous extracellular recordings were made from mPFC and HC of rats performing the delayed spatial win-shift on a radial maze. Each trial consisted of a training-phase (when 4 randomly chosen arms were open) and test phase (all 8 arms were open but only previously blocked arms contained food) separated by a 60-s delay. Theta power was highest during the delay, and mPFC units were more likely to become entrained to hippocampal theta as the delay progressed. Training and test phase performance were accurately predicted by a linear classifier, and there was a transition in classification for training-phase to test-phase activity patterns throughout the delay on trials where the rats performed well. These data suggest that the HC and mPFC become more strongly synchronized as mPFC circuits preferentially shift from encoding retrospective to prospective information.

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