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Discharge characteristics of neurons in posterior thalamus and hippocampus in rats during time interval discrimination task

Lee, Jihyun; Kim, Jieun; Jung, Min Whan
Institute for Medical Sciences
We anticipate timescales ranging from milliseconds to hours to days. Compared to circadian system, however, the neural mechanisms of interval timing in the range of seconds to minutes are unclear. We addressed this issue by examining timing-related neural activity in the posterior thalamus and the CA1 region of the hippocampus in rats performing a temporal discrimination task. In this task, rats were required to discriminate six randomly presented time interval durations ranging from 3018 to 4784 ms into short or long ones to obtain water reward (Front. Behav. Neurosci., 2009, 3:38). Diverse types of activity were observed in both regions of the brain, and neuronal ensembles recorded from both regions conveyed significant amounts of information about the elapse of time. However, neural dynamics underlying transmission of temporal information appears to be different between the two regions. CA1 conveyed temporal information based on sequential activation of multiple neurons, which was not observed in the posterior thalamus. On the other hand, some posterior thalamic neurons conveyed temporal information based on monotonically changing activity profiles during the sample durations. These results suggest that the brain might be equipped with multiple mechanisms for estimating time intervals.
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