Distinct lines of research in both humans and animals point to a specific role of the hippocampus in both spatial and episodic memory function. The discovery of concept cells in the hippocampus and surrounding medial temporal lobe (MTL) regions suggests that the MTL maps physical and semantic spaces with a similar neural architecture. Here, we studied the emergence of such maps using MTL microwire recordings from 20 patients (9 female, 11 male) navigating a virtual environment featuring salient landmarks with established semantic meaning. We present several key findings. The array of local field potentials in the MTL contains sufficient information for above-chance decoding of subjects' instantaneous location in the environment. Closer examination revealed that as subjects gain experience with the environment the field potentials come to represent both the subjects' locations in virtual space and in high-dimensional semantic space. Similarly, we observe a learning effect on temporal sequence coding. Over time, field potentials come to represent future locations, even after controlling for spatial proximity. This predictive coding of future states, more so than the strength of spatial representations per se, is linked to variability in subjects' navigation performance. Our results thus support the conceptualization of the MTL as a memory space, representing both spatial- and nonspatial information to plan future actions and predict their outcomes.
Herweg, Nora A.; Kunz, Lukas; Schonhaut, Daniel; Brandt, Armin; Wanda, Paul A.; Sharan, Ashwini D.; Sperling, Michael R.; Schulze-Bonhage, Andreas; and Kahana, Michael J., "A Learned Map for Places and Concepts in the Human Medial Temporal Lobe" (2023). Department of Neurology Faculty Papers. Paper 320.
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