During navigation, grid cells increase their spike rates in firing fields arranged on a markedly regular triangular lattice, whereas their spike timing is often modulated by theta oscillations. Oscillatory interference models of grid cells predict theta amplitude modulations of membrane potential during firing field traversals, whereas competing attractor network models predict slow depolarizing ramps. Here, using in vivo whole-cell recordings, we tested these models by directly measuring grid cell intracellular potentials in mice running along linear tracks in virtual reality. Grid cells had large and reproducible ramps of membrane potential depolarization that were the characteristic signature tightly correlated with firing fields. Grid cells also demonstrated intracellular theta oscillations that influenced their spike timing. However, the properties of theta amplitude modulations were not consistent with the view that they determine firing field locations. Our results support cellular and network mechanisms in which grid fields are produced by slow ramps, as in attractor models, whereas theta oscillations control spike timing.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes