Research Article

Cognitive Neurodynamics

, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 177-187

First online:

The role of competitive learning in the generation of DG fields from EC inputs

  • Bailu SiAffiliated withCognitive Neuroscience Sector, SISSA Email author 
  • , Alessandro TrevesAffiliated withCognitive Neuroscience Sector, SISSAKavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience, Center for the Biology of Memory, NTNU

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


We follow up on a suggestion by Rolls and co-workers, that the effects of competitive learning should be assessed on the shape and number of spatial fields that dentate gyrus (DG) granule cells may form when receiving input from medial entorhinal cortex (mEC) grid units. We consider a simple non-dynamical model where DG units are described by a threshold-linear transfer function, and receive feedforward inputs from 1,000 mEC model grid units of various spacing, orientation and spatial phase. Feedforward weights are updated according to a Hebbian rule as the virtual rodent follows a long simulated trajectory through a single environment. Dentate activity is constrained to be very sparse. We find that indeed competitive Hebbian learning tends to result in a few active DG units with a single place field each, rounded in shape and made larger by iterative weight changes. These effects are more pronounced when produced with thousands of DG units and inputs per DG unit, which the realistic system has available, than with fewer units and inputs, in which case several DG units persists with multiple fields. The emergence of single-field units with learning is in contrast, however, to recent data indicating that most active DG units do have multiple fields. We show how multiple irregularly arranged fields can be produced by the addition of non-space selective lateral entorhinal cortex (lEC) units, which are modelled as simply providing an additional effective input specific to each DG unit. The mean number of such multiple DG fields is enhanced, in particular, when lEC and mEC inputs have overall similar variance across DG units. Finally, we show that in a restricted environment the mean size of the fields is unaltered, while their mean number is scaled down with the area of the environment.


Hippocampus Entorhinal cortex Place cells Grid cells Competitive learning