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Dorsal hippocampus plays a causal role in model-based planning

By Kevin J. Miller, Matthew M. Botvinick, Carlos Brody

Posted 24 Dec 2016
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/096594 (published DOI: 10.1038/nn.4613)

Planning can be defined as a process of action selection that leverages an internal model of the environment. Such models provide information about the likely outcomes that will follow each selected action, and their use is a key function underlying complex adaptive behavior. However, the neural mechanisms supporting this ability remain poorly understood. In the present work, we adapt for rodents recent advances from work on human planning, presenting for the first time a task for animals which produces many trials of planned behavior per session, allowing the experimental toolkit available for use in trial-by-trial tasks for rodents to be applied to the study of planning. We take advantage of one part of this toolkit to address a perennially controversial issue in planning research: the role of the dorsal hippocampus. Although prospective representations in the hippocampus have been proposed to support model-based planning, intact planning in hippocampally damaged animals has been observed in a number of assays. Combining formal algorithmic behavioral analysis with muscimol inactivation, we provide the first causal evidence directly linking dorsal hippocampus with planning behavior. The results reported, and the methods introduced, open the door to new and more detailed investigations of the neural mechanisms of planning, in the hippocampus and throughout the brain.

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