Royal Society Publishing

Analysis of the connectional organization of neural systems associated with the hippocampus in rats

Gully A. P. C. Burns , Malcolm P. Young

Abstract

The hippocampus of the rat enjoys a central significance for researchers interested in the neural mechanisms of memory and spatial information processing. Many of the theoretical models advanced to explain function in this system, however, do not reflect the wealth of information on the connectivity of these structures, and employ greatly simplified treatments of its complex connectivity. W e were interested in whether a more analytical approach, which begins with analysis of the connectivity of the system, might provide insights complementary to those derived by synthetic models. Accordingly, we collated detailed neuroanatomical information about the connectivity of the hippocampal system in the rat, and analysed the resulting data. Analyses of connectivity based on a variety of different analytical techniques have recently been used to elucidate the global organization of other systems in the macaque and cat, and have given rise to successful predictions. W e applied non–metric multidimensional scaling and non–parametric cluster analysis to our summary matrix of connection data. The analyses produced organizational schemes that were consistent with known physiological properties and provided the basis for making tentative predictions of the further structures that may contain ‘place’ and ‘head–direction’ cells, which structures we identify. The consistency between the analyses of connectivity and the distribution of physiological properties across the system suggests that functional relationships are constrained by the organization of the connectivity of the system, and so that structure and function are linked at the systems level.

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