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Naturwissenschaften. 2008 Nov;95(11):1011-26. doi: 10.1007/s00114-008-0410-z. Epub 2008 Jun 14.

Fractionating dead reckoning: role of the compass, odometer, logbook, and home base establishment in spatial orientation.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Northern Illinois University, De Kalb, IL, 60115-2892, USA.


Rats use multiple sources of information to maintain spatial orientation. Although previous work has focused on rats' use of environmental cues, a growing number of studies have demonstrated that rats also use self-movement cues to organize navigation. This review examines the extent that kinematic analysis of naturally occurring behavior has provided insight into processes that mediate dead-reckoning-based navigation. This work supports a role for separate systems in processing self-movement cues that converge on the hippocampus. The compass system is involved in deriving directional information from self-movement cues; whereas, the odometer system is involved in deriving distance information from self-movement cues. The hippocampus functions similar to a logbook in that outward path unique information from the compass and odometer is used to derive the direction and distance of a path to the point at which movement was initiated. Finally, home base establishment may function to reset this system after each excursion and anchor environmental cues to self-movement cues. The combination of natural behaviors and kinematic analysis has proven to be a robust paradigm to investigate the neural basis of spatial orientation.

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