Social recognition memory is crucial for survival across species, underlying the need to correctly identify conspecifics, mates and potential enemies. In humans the hippocampus is engaged in social and episodic memory, however the circuit mechanisms of social memory in rodent models has only recently come under scrutiny. Work in mice has established that the dorsal CA2 and ventral CA1 regions play critical roles, however a more comprehensive comparative analyses of the circuits and mechanisms required has not been reported. Here we employ conditional genetics to examine the differential contributions of the hippocampal subfields to social memory. We find that the deletion of NMDA receptor subunit 1 gene (NR1), which abolishes NMDA receptor synaptic plasticity, in CA3 pyramidal cells led to deficits in social memory; however, mice lacking the same gene in DG granule cells performed indistinguishable from controls. Further, we use conditional pharmacogenetic inhibition to demonstrate that activity in ventral, but not dorsal, CA3 is necessary for the encoding of a social memory. These findings demonstrated CA3 pyramidal cell plasticity and transmission contribute to the encoding of social stimuli and help further identify the distinct circuits underlying the role of the hippocampus in social memory.
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