Hippocampal awake replay in fear memory retrieval
Hippocampal place cells are key to episodic memories. How these cells participate in memory retrieval remains unclear. After rats acquired a fear memory by receiving mild footshocks in a shock zone on a track, we analyzed place cells when the animals were placed on the track again and displayed an apparent memory retrieval behavior: avoidance of the shock zone. We found that place cells representing the shock zone were reactivated, despite the fact that the animals did not enter the shock zone. This reactivation occurred in ripple-associated awake replay of place cell sequences encoding the paths from the animal's current positions to the shock zone but not in place cell sequences within individual cycles of theta oscillation. The result reveals a specific place-cell pattern underlying inhibitory avoidance behavior and provides strong evidence for the involvement of awake replay in fear memory retrieval.