Poucet, B., Save, E. and Lenck-Santini, P.-P. (2000). Sensory and memory properties of place cells firing. Reviews in the Neurosciences, 11, 95-111.
The rat hippocampus contains place
cells whose firing is location-specific. These cells fire only when the
rat enters a restricted region of the environment called the firing field.
In this review, we examine the sensory information that is fundamental
to the place cell system for producing spatial firing. While visual information
takes precedence in the control of firing fields when it is available,
local (olfactory and/or tactile) cues combined with motion-related cues
can permit stable spatial firing. Motion-related cues are integrated by
hippocampal place cells, but in the absence of an external cues do not
support stable firing over long periods. While firing fields are based
on a variety of sensory cues, they do not strictly depend on such cues.
Rather, sensory information is important for activating the representation
appropriate to the current environment as reflected by the firing properties
of place cell ensembles. Specific sensory channels as well as the memory
properties of place cells can support ongoing firing under manipulations
of the environment. These memory features raise the question of the role
of the place cell system in the acquisition, storage and retrieval of spatial
information. Based on the existing literature about the effects of hippocampal
lesions and about the metabolic activations in spatial memory tasks, we
suggest that a function of the place cell system is to automatically provide
the organism with information about its current location so as to allow
for the rapid acquisition of novel information.