Alternating predictive and short-term memory modes of entorhinal grid cells



Several lines of evidence indicate that the entorhinal cortex has memory functions, but such functions have not been previously found in grid cells, a cell type that provides major input to the hippocampus. We examined the firing of grid cells as rats crossed (runs) through grid cell vertices. We found that on some runs, firing tended to occur mostly inbound as the rat approached a vertex center while on other runs firing occurred mainly outbound. These results suggest that cells have a predictive mode (inbound firing) in which they represent a position ahead of the animal and a short term memory (STM) mode (outbound firing) in which they represent positions just passed through. Analysis of cell pairs showed that when vertex crossings were less than 1 second apart, the two cells tended to have the same mode. This indicates that modes are a network property. The tendency to have the same mode disappeared if crossings were separated by 2-3 seconds, suggesting that modes alternate on the time scale of seconds. There was a small but statistically significant behavioral correlate of modes: velocity was slightly less in the STM mode. Both modes were organized by theta and gamma oscillations. The results suggest that the dual requirement for hippocampal storage and recall is met by rapidly alternating modes appropriate for predicting the future and storing the recent past. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.