Increased flexibility of CA3 memory representations following environmental enrichment

Silvia Ventura, Stephen Duncan, James Ainge*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Environmental enrichment (EE) improves memory, particularly the ability to discriminate similar past experiences.1,2,3,4,5,6 The hippocampus supports this ability via pattern separation, the encoding of similar events using dissimilar memory representations.7 This is carried out in the dentate gyrus (DG) and CA3 subfields.8,9,10,11,12 Upregulation of adult neurogenesis in the DG improves memory through enhanced pattern separation.1,2,3,4,5,6,11,13,14,15,16 Adult-born granule cells (abGCs) in DG are suggested to contribute to pattern separation by driving inhibition in regions such as CA3,13,14,15,16,17,18 leading to sparser, nonoverlapping representations of similar events (although a role for abGCs in driving excitation in the hippocampus has also been reported16). Place cells in the hippocampus contribute to pattern separation by remapping to spatial and contextual alterations to the environment.19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27 How spatial responses in CA3 are affected by EE and input from increased numbers of abGCs in DG is, however, unknown. Here, we investigate the neural mechanisms facilitating improved memory following EE using associative recognition memory tasks that model the automatic and integrative nature of episodic memory. We find that EE-dependent improvements in difficult discriminations are related to increased neurogenesis and sparser memory representations across the hippocampus. Additionally, we report for the first time that EE changes how CA3 place cells discriminate similar contexts. CA3 place cells of enriched rats show greater spatial tuning, increased firing rates, and enhanced remapping to contextual changes. These findings point to more precise and flexible CA3 memory representations in enriched rats, which provides a putative mechanism for EE-dependent improvements in fine memory discrimination.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2011-2019
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number9
Early online date17 Apr 2024
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2024


  • Neurogenesis
  • Pattern separation
  • Episodic memory
  • Place cell
  • Remapping
  • Dentate gyrus
  • Object recognition
  • Rat
  • Hippocampus
  • Context


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