The dentate gyrus (DG) occupies a key position in information flow through the hippocampus. Its principal cell, the granule cell, has spatially selective place fields. However, the behavioral correlates of cells located in the hilus of the rat dentate gyrus are unknown. We report here that cells below the granule layer show spatially selective firing that consists of multiple subfields. Other cells recorded from the DG had single place fields. Compared with cells with multiple fields, cells with single fields fired at lower rates during sleep were less bursty, and were more likely to be recorded simultaneously with large populations of neurons that were active during sleep and silent during behavior. We propose that cells with single fields are likely to be mature granule cells that use sparse encoding to potentially disambiguate input patterns. Furthermore, we hypothesize that cells with multiple fields might be cells of the hilus or newborn granule cells. These data are the first demonstration, based on physiological criteria, that single-and multiple-field cells constitute at least two distinct cell classes in the DG. Because of the heterogeneity of firing correlates and cell types in the DG, understanding which cell types correspond to which firing patterns, and how these correlates change with behavioral state and between different environments, are critical questions for testing long-standing computational theories that theDGperforms a pattern separation function using a very sparse coding strategy.
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