Spatial scaling of place specific activity in the hippocampus varies systematically from the septal pole (high resolution) to the temporal pole (low resolution). Place fields get progressively larger, and the probability of observing a field in a given environment gets progressively smaller. It was previously found that decoupling movement in space from ambulation, by having the animal actively ride on a mobile platform, results in marked enlargement of the spatial scale factor in the dorsal hippocampus and a reduction in the increase in theta rhythm power with running speed, suggesting that a self-motion signal determines the spatial scale at which the hippocampal population vector updates. These results led to the hypothesis that the gain of the self-motion signal may vary systematically along the septo-temporal axis of the hippocampus. To test this hypothesis, EEG theta rhythm and ensembles of CA1 pyramidal cells and interneurons were recorded from the extreme dorsal and middle portions of the hippocampus. Pyramidal cell population vectors representing successive locations became decorrelated over substantially shorter distances in the dorsal than in the middle hippocampus. Dorsal pyramidal cells had smaller place fields, higher mean and peak firing rates, and higher intrinsic oscillation frequencies during track running than that of middle pyramidal cells. Both dorsal pyramidal cells and interneurons had more elevated mean rates during running, compared with rest, than that of the corresponding cell classes in the middle hippocampus, and both cell classes increased their rates more as a function of speed in the dorsal hippocampus.
The amplitude, but not the frequency of fissure recorded theta rhythm, increased more as a function of running speed in the dorsal than in the middle hippocampus. We conclude that variation in the neuronal response to movement speed is the likely basis for the systematic variation in spatial scaling along the septo-temporal axis of the hippocampus. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.