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Curr Biol. 2015 May 4;25(9):1176-82. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.02.037. Epub 2015 Apr 23.

Grid cells form a global representation of connected environments.

Author information

1
Institute of Neurology, UCL, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK; Research Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, UCL, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK. Electronic address: francis.carpenter.12@ucl.ac.uk.
2
Research Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, UCL, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK; Centre for Mathematics and Physics in the Life Sciences and Experimental Biology, UCL, Gower Place, London WC1E 6BT, UK.
3
Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience, UCL, Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AP, UK.
4
Institute of Neurology, UCL, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK; Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, UCL, Queen Square, London WC1N 3AR, UK.
5
Research Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, UCL, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK. Electronic address: caswell.barry@ucl.ac.uk.

Abstract

The firing patterns of grid cells in medial entorhinal cortex (mEC) and associated brain areas form triangular arrays that tessellate the environment [1, 2] and maintain constant spatial offsets to each other between environments [3, 4]. These cells are thought to provide an efficient metric for navigation in large-scale space [5-8]. However, an accurate and universal metric requires grid cell firing patterns to uniformly cover the space to be navigated, in contrast to recent demonstrations that environmental features such as boundaries can distort [9-11] and fragment [12] grid patterns. To establish whether grid firing is determined by local environmental cues, or provides a coherent global representation, we recorded mEC grid cells in rats foraging in an environment containing two perceptually identical compartments connected via a corridor. During initial exposures to the multicompartment environment, grid firing patterns were dominated by local environmental cues, replicating between the two compartments. However, with prolonged experience, grid cell firing patterns formed a single, continuous representation that spanned both compartments. Thus, we provide the first evidence that in a complex environment, grid cell firing can form the coherent global pattern necessary for them to act as a metric capable of supporting large-scale spatial navigation.

PMID:
25913404
PMCID:
PMC4425461
DOI:
10.1016/j.cub.2015.02.037
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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