Flexible encoding of objects and space in single cells of the dentate gyrus

Douglas GoodSmith, Sang Hoon Kim, Vyash Puliyadi, Guo li Ming, Hongjun Song, James J. Knierim, Kimberly M. Christian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The hippocampus is involved in the formation of memories that require associations among stimuli to construct representations of space and the items and events within that space. Neurons in the dentate gyrus (DG), an initial input region of the hippocampus, have robust spatial tuning, but it is unclear how nonspatial information may be integrated with spatial activity in this region. We recorded from the DG of 21 adult mice as they foraged for food in an environment that contained discrete objects. We found DG cells with multiple firing fields at a fixed distance and direction from objects (landmark vector cells) and cells that exhibited localized changes in spatial firing when objects in the environment were manipulated. By classifying recorded DG cells into putative dentate granule cells and mossy cells, we examined how the addition or displacement of objects affected the spatial firing of these DG cell types. Object-related activity was detected in a significant proportion of mossy cells. Although few granule cells with responses to object manipulations were recorded, likely because of the sparse nature of granule cell firing, there was generally no significant difference in the proportion of granule cells and mossy cells with object responses. When mice explored a second environment with the same objects, DG spatial maps completely reorganized, and a different subset of cells responded to object manipulations. Together, these data reveal the capacity of DG cells to detect small changes in the environment while preserving a stable spatial representation of the overall context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1088-1101.e5
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 14 2022


  • conjunctive encoding
  • dentate granule cell
  • dentate gyrus
  • hippocampus
  • mossy cell
  • objects
  • place cell
  • spatial navigation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Neuroscience(all)


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