Non-place cells discriminate real goals from the fakes. Check out our latest paper led by Lu Zhang with Stephanie Prince and Abby Paulson. Goals are a key part of navigation. Studies have shown that some hippocampal cells can code for both goal and place information, but place-reward conjunctive coding would fail when spatial information about reward is ambiguous. We asked: what happens when animals must differentiate between two similar looking places but only one is the goal (because it has a treat for hungry mouse). Place cells, which represent particular locations, did not do differentiate between real false goal locations. The places looked the same and place cells fired similarly in both places even though they had very different significance to the animal. Instead, “nonplace” cells did the job discriminating the true goal from the fake. Nonplace cells are often left out of navigation studies because they don’t have clear response properties, like receptive fields. We found that they do have an important role: goal discrimination. They fire differently between the real goal and fake goal zone and hey are more likely to be coupled to slow gamma oscillations. We then discovered that a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease pathology had impaired goal discrimination in these non-place cells. People with Alzheimer’s disease have early deficits in spatial navigation. So in short: non-place cells play a unique goal discriminating role in navigation and they are impaired in models of Alzheimer’s disease.
Read the paper here
And a great summary here