Perpetual step-like restructuring of hippocampal circuit dynamics

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Representation of the environment by hippocampal populations is known to drift even within a familiar environment, which could reflect gradual changes in single cell activity or result from averaging across discrete switches of single neurons. Disambiguating these possibilities is crucial, as they each imply distinct mechanisms. Leveraging change point detection and model comparison, we found that CA1 population vectors decorrelated gradually within a session. In contrast, individual neurons exhibited predominantly step-like emergence and disappearance of place fields or sustained change in within-field firing. The changes were not restricted to particular parts of the maze or trials and did not require apparent behavioral changes. The same place fields emerged, disappeared, and reappeared across days, suggesting that the hippocampus reuses pre-existing assemblies, rather than forming new fields de novo . Our results suggest an internally-driven perpetual step-like reorganization of the neuronal assemblies.

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