James Knierim Laboratory
Research in the James Knierim Laboratory attempts to understand the flow of information through the hippocampal formation and the computations performed by the various subfields of the hippocampus and its inputs from the entorhinal cortex. To address these issues, we use multi-electrode arrays to record the extracellular action potentials from scores of well-isolated hippocampal neurons in freely moving rats. These neurons, or ""place cells,"" are selectively active when the rat occupies restricted locations in its environment and help to form a cognitive map of the environment. The animal uses this map to navigate efficiently in its environment and to learn and remember important locations. These cells are thought to play a major role in the formation of episodic (autobiographical) memories. Place cells thus constitute a tremendous opportunity to investigate the mechanisms by which the brain transforms sensory input into an internal, cognitive representation of the world and then uses this representation as the framework that organizes and stores memories of past events.