Metabolic activation pattern of distinct hippocampal subregions during spatial learning and memory retrieval.
Activation dynamics of hippocampal subregions during spatial learning and their interplay with neocortical regions is an important dimension in the understanding of hippocampal function. Using the (14C)-2-deoxyglucose autoradiographic method, we have characterized the metabolic changes occurring in hippocampal subregions in mice while learning an eight-arm radial maze task. Autoradiogram densitometry revealed a heterogeneous and evolving pattern of enhanced metabolic activity throughout the hippocampus during the training period and on recall. In the early stages of training, activity was enhanced in the CA1 area from the intermediate portion to the posterior end as well as in the CA3 area within the intermediate portion of the hippocampus. At later stages, CA1 and CA3 activations spread over the entire longitudinal axis, while dentate gyrus (DG) activation occurred from the anterior to the intermediate zone. Activation of the retrosplenial cortex but not the amygdala was also observed during the learning process. On recall, only DG activation was observed in the same anterior part of the hippocampus. These results suggest the existence of a functional segmentation of the hippocampus, each subregion being dynamically but also differentially recruited along the acquisition, consolidation, and retrieval process in parallel with some neocortical sites.