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Entorhinal cortical Island cells regulate temporal association learning with long trace period

Jun Yokose, William D. Marks, Naoki Yamamoto, Sachie K. Ogawa, Takashi Kitamura
Published: 16 August 2021

Abstract: Temporal association learning (TAL) allows for the linkage of distinct, nonsynchronous events across a period of time. This function is driven by neural interactions in the entorhinal cortical–hippocampal network, especially the neural input from the pyramidal cells in layer III of medial entorhinal cortex (MECIII) to hippocampal CA1 is crucial for TAL. Successful TAL depends on the strength of event stimuli and the duration of the temporal gap between events. Whereas it has been demonstrated that the neural input from pyramidal cells in layer II of MEC, referred to as Island cells, to inhibitory neurons in dorsal hippocampal CA1 controls TAL when the strength of event stimuli is weak, it remains unknown whether Island cells regulate TAL with long trace periods as well. To understand the role of Island cells in regulating the duration of the learnable trace period in TAL, we used Pavlovian trace fear conditioning (TFC) with a 60-sec long trace period (long trace fear conditioning [L-TFC]) coupled with optogenetic and chemogenetic neural activity manipulations as well as cell type-specific neural ablation. We found that ablation of Island cells in MECII partially increases L-TFC performance. Chemogenetic manipulation of Island cells causes differential effectiveness in Island cell activity and leads to a circuit imbalance that disrupts L-TFC. However, optogenetic terminal inhibition of Island cell input to dorsal hippocampal CA1 during the temporal association period allows for long trace intervals to be learned in TFC. These results demonstrate that Island cells have a critical role in regulating the duration of time bridgeable between associated events in TAL.
Keywords: neural / Island cells / trace / TAL / hippocampal CA1 / input / temporal association period

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