Human hippocampal theta oscillations reflect sequential dependencies during spatial planning.
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Movement-related theta oscillations in rodent hippocampus coordinate ‘forward sweeps’ of location-specific neural activity that could be used to evaluate spatial trajectories online. This raises the possibility that increases in human hippocampal theta power accompany the evaluation of upcoming spatial choices. To test this hypothesis, we measured neural oscillations during a spatial planning task that closely resembles a perceptual decision-making paradigm. In this task, participants searched visually for the shortest path between a start and goal location in novel mazes that contained multiple choice points, and were subsequently asked to make a spatial decision at one of those choice points. We observed ~4–8 Hz hippocampal/medial temporal lobe theta power increases specific to sequential planning that were negatively correlated with subsequent decision speed, where decision speed was inversely correlated with choice accuracy. These results implicate the hippocampal theta rhythm in decision tree search during planning in novel environments.