Cognitive Neurodynamics

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 237–248 | Cite as

Theta phase precession emerges from a hybrid computational model of a CA3 place cell

  • John L. Baker
  • James L. OldsEmail author
Research Article


The origins and functional significance of theta phase precession in the hippocampus remain obscure, in part, because of the difficulty of reproducing hippocampal place cell firing in experimental settings where the biophysical underpinnings can be examined in detail. The present study concerns a neurobiologically based computational model of the emergence of theta phase precession in which the responses of a single model CA3 pyramidal cell are examined in the context of stimulation by realistic afferent spike trains including those of place cells in entorhinal cortex, dentate gyrus, and other CA3 pyramidal cells. Spike-timing dependent plasticity in the model CA3 pyramidal cell leads to a spatially correlated associational synaptic drive that subsequently creates a spatially asymmetric expansion of the model cell’s place field. Following an initial training period, theta phase precession can be seen in the firing patterns of the model CA3 pyramidal cell. Through selective manipulations of the model it is possible to decompose theta phase precession in CA3 into the separate contributing factors of inheritance from upstream afferents in the dentate gyrus and entorhinal cortex, the interaction of synaptically controlled increasing afferent drive with phasic inhibition, and the theta phase difference between dentate gyrus granule cell and CA3 pyramidal cell activity. In the context of a single CA3 pyramidal cell, the model shows that each of these factors plays a role in theta phase precession within CA3 and suggests that no one single factor offers a complete explanation of the phenomenon. The model also shows parallels between theta phase encoding and pattern completion within the CA3 autoassociative network.


Theta rhythm Hippocampus Pyramidal cell Computer simulation Learning and memory 



We would like to thank Professors Kim Blackwell, Giorgio Ascoli, and James Gentle for the advice they generously provided during the conduct of this research. We also gratefully acknowledge the suggestions of multiple anonymous reviewers. JLB was supported by a fellowship from the Krasnow Institute of Advanced Study.

Supplementary material


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Neuroscience Doctoral ProgramGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA
  2. 2.The Krasnow Institute for Advanced StudyGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA

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