Repeating firing fields of CA1 neurons shift forward in response to increasing angular velocity

Stephen L. Cowen, Douglas A. Nitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Self-motion information influences spatially-specific firing patterns exhibited by hippocampal neurons. Moreover, these firing patterns can repeat across similar subsegments of an environment, provided that there is similarity of path shape and head orientations across subsegments. The influence of self-motion variables on repeating fields remains to be determined. To investigate the role of path shape and angular rotation on hippocampal activity, we recorded the activity of CA1 neurons from rats trained to run on spiral-shaped tracks. During inbound traversals of circular-spiral tracks, angular velocity increases continuously. Under this condition, most neurons (74%) exhibited repeating fields across at least three adjacent loops. Of these neurons, 86% exhibited forward shifts in the angles of field centers relative to centers on preceding loops. Shifts were absent on squared-spiral tracks, minimal and less reliable on concentric-circle tracks, and absent on outward-bound runs on circular-spiral tracks. However, outward-bound runs on the circular-spiral track in the dark were associated with backward shifts. Together, the most parsimonious interpretation of the results is that continuous increases or decreases in angular velocity are particularly effective at shifting the center of mass of repeating fields, although it is also possible that a nonlinear integration of step counts contributes to the shift. Furthermore, the unexpected absence of field shifts during outward journeys in light (but not darkness) suggests visual cues around the goal location anchored the map of space to an allocentric reference frame.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)232-241
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014


  • Angular acceleration
  • Hippocampus
  • Memory
  • Navigation
  • Place fields

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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