Aging is associated with spatial memory impairments and with deficient encoding of information by the hippocampus. In young adult rats, recent studies on the firing properties of hippocampal neurons have emphasized the importance of the CA3 subregion in the rapid encoding of new spatial information. Here, we compared the spatial firing patterns of CA1 and CA3 neurons in aged memory-impaired rats with those of young rats as they explored familiar and novel environments. We found that CA1 place cells in aged and young rats had similar firing characteristics in the familiar and novel environments. In contrast, aged CA3 place cells had higher firing rates in general and failed to change their firing rates and place fields as much as CA3 cells of young rats when the rats were introduced to a novel environment. Thus, aged CA3 cells failed to rapidly encode new spatial information compared with young CA3 cells. These data suggest an important and selective contribution of CA3 dysfunction to age-related memory impairment.
- Age-associated cognitive impairment
- Place cells
- Spatial memory
ASJC Scopus subject areas