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Mechanisms of hippocampal astrocytes mediation of spatial memory and theta rhythm by gliotransmitters and growth factors



Our knowledge about encoding and maintenance of spatial memory emphasizes the integrated functional role of the grid cells and the place cells of the hippocampus in the generation of theta rhythm in spatial memory formation. However, the role of astrocytes in these processes is often underestimated in their contribution to the required structural and functional characteristics of hippocampal neural network operative in spatial memory. We show that hippocampal astrocytes, by the secretion of gliotransmitters, such as glutamate, d-serine, and ATP and growth factors such as BDNF and by the expression of receptors and channels such as those of TNFα and aquaporin, have several diverse fuctions in spatial memory. We specifically focus on the role of astrocytes on five phases of spatial memory: (1) theta rhythm generation, (2) theta phase precession, (3) formation of spatial memory by mapping data of entorhinal grid cells into the place cells, (4) storage of spatial information, and (5) maintenance of spatial memory. Finally, by reviewing the literature, we propose specific mechanisms mentioned in the form of a hypothesis suggesting that astrocytes are important in spatial memory formation.