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Title: An investigation of the postsubiculum's role in spatial cognition
Author: Bett, David
Awarding Body: University of Stirling
Current Institution: University of Stirling
Date of Award: 2011
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The hippocampal formation has been implicated in spatial formation for many decades. The hippocampus proper has received the most attention but other regions of the hippocampal formation contribute largely to spatial cognition. This thesis concentrated on one such region, the postsubiculum. The postsubiculum is considered important because it contains head direction cells and because it thought to be a major input to the hippocampus, via the entorhinal cortex. This thesis aims to test the functional role of the rat postsubiculum under two types of situation: one where the rat must rely on idiothetic cues for navigation, and another where the rat has visual cues present and can rely on these for orientation. The thesis also investigates hippocampal place cells and their stability over time after short exposures to novel environments. Chapter 3 of this thesis aimed to test whether the postsubiculum is necessary for path integration during a homing task. Rats were trained on a homing task on a circular platform maze. Once the task was acquired, rats were given lesions of the postsubiculum or sham lesions and then re-tested on the path integration task. The homing performance of rats with lesions of the postsubiculum was as good as that of the sham rats. A series of manipulations suggests that the rats were homing by path integration, confirmed by probe tests. The rats were then tested on a forced-choice delayed alternation T-maze task that revealed a significant impairment in alternation with delays of 5, 30, and 60 seconds. This suggests that the postsubiculum is not necessary for path integration in a homing task but is necessary for avoiding previously visited locations as is necessary in an alternation task. The experiments in Chapters 4 and 5 of this thesis aimed to investigate the effects of postsubiculum pharmacological inactivation on hippocampal CA1 place cells when rats were introduced to a novel environment with visual cues. A necessary first step was to assess place cells without any manipulation of the postsubiculum (Chapter 4) and then use information gained from this in the design of experiments in Chapter 5. Rats chronically implanted with recording electrodes in the CA1 region of the hippocampus were exposed to novel cue-rich environments whilst place fields were recorded. Following delays of 3, 6, or 24 hours, the same cells were recorded again in the same environment but with the cues rotated by 90°. Pixel-by-pixel correlations of the place fields show that stability of the place fields was significantly lower at 24 hours than at 3 hours. Stability after 6 hours was not significantly different from 3 hours. In the third set of experiments, rats were implanted with drug infusion cannulae in the postsubiculum and recording electrodes in CA1. Following infusions of either the AMPA receptor antagonist CXQX, the NMDA receptor antagonist D-AP5 or a control infusion of ACSF, place field stability was assessed as rats were exposed to a cylindrical environment with a single polarising cue card for 3 x 10 minute sessions and then again 6 hours later. There were no differences in place field correlations between the 3 drug conditions, although there was evidence of larger changes in spatial information content between cells in the CNQX and AP5 drug condition, but not the ACSF condition. The results suggest that, under the present testing conditions, place fields stability did not depend upon AMPA receptor-mediated transmission nor did it depend on NMDA receptor-mediated synaptic plasticity.
Supervisor: Dudchenko, Paul. A. Sponsor: University of Stirling, Psychology Department
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: spatial memory ; spatial cognition ; hippocampus ; postsubiculum ; place cells ; navigation ; path integration ; head direction cells ; Space perception ; Hippocampus (Brain) ; Parietal lobes