Dorsal hippocampus contributes to model-based planning

Planning can be defined as action selection that leverages an internal model of the outcomes likely to follow each possible action. Its neural mechanisms remain poorly understood. Here we adapt recent advances from human research for rats, presenting for the first time an animal task that produces many trials of planned behavior per session, making multitrial rodent experimental tools available to study planning. We use part of this toolkit to address a perennially controversial issue in planning: the role of the dorsal hippocampus. Although prospective hippocampal representations have been proposed to support planning, intact planning in animals with damaged hippocampi has been repeatedly observed. Combining formal algorithmic behavioral analysis with muscimol inactivation, we provide causal evidence directly linking dorsal hippocampus with planning behavior. Our results and methods open the door to new and more detailed investigations of the neural mechanisms of planning in the hippocampus and throughout the brain.

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