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J Neurophysiol. 2018 Jun 1;119(6):2007-2029. doi: 10.1152/jn.00498.2017. Epub 2018 Feb 14.

Neural mechanisms of navigation involving interactions of cortical and subcortical structures.

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Center for Systems Neuroscience, Boston University , Boston, Massachusetts.


Animals must perform spatial navigation for a range of different behaviors, including selection of trajectories toward goal locations and foraging for food sources. To serve this function, a number of different brain regions play a role in coding different dimensions of sensory input important for spatial behavior, including the entorhinal cortex, the retrosplenial cortex, the hippocampus, and the medial septum. This article will review data concerning the coding of the spatial aspects of animal behavior, including location of the animal within an environment, the speed of movement, the trajectory of movement, the direction of the head in the environment, and the position of barriers and objects both relative to the animal's head direction (egocentric) and relative to the layout of the environment (allocentric). The mechanisms for coding these important spatial representations are not yet fully understood but could involve mechanisms including integration of self-motion information or coding of location based on the angle of sensory features in the environment. We will review available data and theories about the mechanisms for coding of spatial representations. The computation of different aspects of spatial representation from available sensory input requires complex cortical processing mechanisms for transformation from egocentric to allocentric coordinates that will only be understood through a combination of neurophysiological studies and computational modeling.


boundary cells; entorhinal cortex; grid cells; head direction cells; speed cells

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