Abstract: Neurons in the hippocampus exhibit a striking selectivity for specific combinations of sensory features, forming representations that are thought to subserve episodic memory. Even during completely novel experiences, hippocampal “place cells” are rapidly configured such that the population sparsely encodes visited locations, stabilizing within minutes of the first exposure to a new environment. What mechanisms enable this fast encoding of experience? Using virtual reality and neural population recordings in mice, we dissected the effects of novelty and experience on the dynamics of place field formation. During place field formation, many CA1 neurons immediately modulated the amplitude of their activity and shifted the location of their field, rapid changes in tuning predicted by behavioral timescale synaptic plasticity (BTSP). Signatures of BTSP were particularly enriched during the exploration of a novel context and decayed with experience. Our data suggest that novelty modulates the effective learning rate in CA1, favoring rapid mechanisms of field formation to encode a new experience.
Authors: James B Priestley, John C Bowler, Sebi V Rolotti, Stefano Fusi, Attila Losonczy