The ventral hippocampus is involved in multi-goal obstacle-rich spatial navigation

Marco Contreras, Tatiana Pelc, Martin Llofriu, Alfredo Weitzenfeld, Jean Marc Fellous

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


A large body of evidence shows that the hippocampus is necessary for successful spatial navigation. Various studies have shown anatomical and functional differences between the dorsal (DHC) and ventral (VHC) portions of this structure. The DHC is primarily involved in spatial navigation and contains cells with small place fields. The VHC is primarily involved in context and emotional encoding contains cells with large place fields and receives major projections from the medial prefrontal cortex. In the past, spatial navigation experiments have used relatively simple tasks that may not have required a strong coordination along the dorsoventral hippocampal axis. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that the DHC and VHC may be critical for goal-directed navigation in obstacle-rich environments. We used a learning task in which animals memorize the location of a set of rewarded feeders, and recall these locations in the presence of small or large obstacles. We report that bilateral DHC or VHC inactivation impaired spatial navigation in both large and small obstacle conditions. Importantly, this impairment did not result from a deficit in the spatial memory for the set of feeders (i.e., recognition of the goal locations) because DHC or VHC inactivation did not affect recall performance when there was no obstacle on the maze. We also show that the behavioral performance of the animals was correlated with several measures of maze complexity and that these correlations were significantly affected by inactivation only in the large object condition. These results suggest that as the complexity of the environment increases, both DHC and VHC are required for spatial navigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)853-866
Number of pages14
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • longitudinal axis
  • multiscale representations
  • spatial navigation
  • ventral hippocampus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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