Place cells of aged rats in two visually identical compartments

Iain A. Wilson, Sami Ikonen, Kestutis Gurevicius, Robert W. McMahan, Michela Gallagher, Howard Eichenbaum, Heikki Tanila

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Aged rats perform poorly on spatial learning tasks, a cognitive impairment which has been linked to the failure of hippocampal networks to fully encode changes in the external environment [Barnes CA, Suster MS, Shen J, McNaughton BL. Multistability of cognitive maps in the hippocampus of old rats. Nature 1997;388(6639):272-5; Wilson IA, Ikonen S, Gureviciene I, McMahan RW, Gallagher M, Eichenbaum H, et al. Cognitive aging and the hippocampus: how old rats represent new environments. J Neurosci 2004;24(15):3870-8]. To examine whether the impairment in hippocampal processing extends to conditions in which self-motion provides the cues for environmental change, we have analyzed spatial firing patterns of hippocampal pyramidal neurons in young and aged rats, as well as in young rats with selective cholinergic lesions, another model of cognitive aging. The rats walked between two visually identical environments, pitting self-motion cues that indicated environmental change against visual inputs that indicated no differences between environments. Our results indicated that place cells in both aged and cholinergic-lesioned rats were equally likely as those of young rats to create new spatial representations in the second compartment. These findings suggest that the hippocampal network of aged rats is able to process changes in internally generated cues without rigidity, but that incomplete processing of external landmark cues may lead to impaired spatial learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1099-1106
Number of pages8
JournalNeurobiology of aging
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2005


  • Age-associated cognitive impairment
  • Aging
  • Hippocampus
  • Idiothetic
  • Medial septum
  • Place cells
  • Self-motion
  • Spatial memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Aging
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


Dive into the research topics of 'Place cells of aged rats in two visually identical compartments'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this