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Phase-tuned neuronal firing encodes human contextual representations for navigational goals

Watrous, Andrew J.; Miller, Jonathan F.; Qasim, Salman E.; Fried, Itzhak; Jacobs, Joshua; Columbia University. Biomedical Engineering

We previously demonstrated that the phase of oscillations modulates neural activity representing categorical information using human intracranial recordings and high-frequency activity from local field potentials (Watrous et al., 2015b). We extend these findings here using human single-neuron recordings during a virtual navigation task. We identify neurons in the medial temporal lobe with firing-rate modulations for specific navigational goals, as well as for navigational planning and goal arrival. Going beyond this work, using a novel oscillation detection algorithm, we identify phase-locked neural firing that encodes information about a person’s prospective navigational goal in the absence of firing rate changes. These results provide evidence for navigational planning and contextual accounts of human MTL function at the single-neuron level. More generally, our findings identify phase-coded neuronal firing as a component of the human neural code.

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November 19, 2018