Spontaneous fast gamma activity in the septal hippocampal region correlates with spatial learning in humans

B. R. Cornwell*, C. Overstreet, C. Grillon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Hippocampal neuronal populations exhibit multiple kinds of activity patterns, from the dominant theta rhythm during active exploration to high-frequency ripple-like activity during periods of relative inactivity. In animals, evidence is rapidly accruing that these high-frequency ripple activity patterns subserve retention of spatial learning performance. In a translational effort to address the possible function of offline hippocampal processes in humans, we measured spontaneous gamma activity during an awake rest period within a virtual spatial learning context. Whole-head magnetoencephalographic (MEG) recordings were taken while healthy participants (N= 24) quietly rested (eyes open) between encoding and retrieval phases of a hippocampal-dependent virtual Morris water maze task. Results are that fast gamma activity (80-140. Hz) in the septal or posterior region of the hippocampus (bilaterally) was positively correlated across participants with subsequent within-session spatial learning rate. Fast gamma did not predict initial retrieval performance following rest, failing to provide evidence of a direct link between spontaneous high-frequency activity patterns during awake rest and consolidation of previous spatial memories. The findings nevertheless are consistent with a prospective role for offline human hippocampal processes in spatial learning and indicate that higher spontaneous gamma activity in the septal hippocampal region is related to faster updating of spatial knowledge in familiar virtual surroundings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)258-264
Number of pages7
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • gamma activity
  • hippocampus
  • magnetoencephalography
  • memory consolidation
  • spatial learning
  • virtual reality


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