Temporal lobe epilepsy causes significant cognitive deficits in both human patients and rodent models, yet the specific circuit mechanisms that alter cognitive processes remain unknown. There is dramatic and selective interneuron death and axonal reorganization within the hippocampus of both humans and animal models, but the functional consequences of these changes on information processing at the neuronal population level have not been well characterized. To examine spatial representations of epileptic and control mice, we developed a novel wire-free miniature microscope to allow for unconstrained behavior during in vivo calcium imaging of neuronal activity. We found that epileptic mice running on a linear track had severely impaired spatial processing in CA1 within a single session, as place cells were less precise and less stable, and population coding was impaired. Long-term stability of place cells was also compromised as place cells in epileptic mice were highly unstable across short time intervals and completely remapped across a week. Because of the large-scale reorganization of inhibitory circuits in epilepsy, we hypothesized that degraded spatial representations were caused by dysfunctional inhibition. To test this hypothesis, we examined the temporal dynamics of hippocampal interneurons using silicon probes to simultaneously record from CA1 and dentate gyrus during head-fixed virtual navigation. We found that epileptic mice had a profound reduction in theta coherence between the dentate gyrus and CA1 regions and altered interneuron synchronization. In particular, dentate interneurons of epileptic mice had altered phase preferences to ongoing theta oscillations, which decorrelated inhibitory population firing between CA1 and dentate gyrus. To assess the specific contribution of desynchronization on spatial coding, we built a CA1 network model to simulate hippocampal desynchronization. Critically, we found that desynchronized inputs reduced the information content and stability of CA1 neurons, consistent with the experimental data. Together, these results demonstrate that temporally precise intra-hippocampal communication is critical for forming the spatial code and that desynchronized firing of hippocampal neuronal populations contributes to poor spatial processing in epileptic mice.
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