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Nature. 1998 Nov 12;396(6707):161-4.

Navigation through vector addition.

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Laboratoire d'Ethologie, FPSE, Université de Genève, Carouge, Switzerland.


During short foraging excursions away from their home, central place foragers update their position relative to their point of departure by processing signals generated by locomotion. They therefore can home along a self-generated vector without using learned references. In rodents and other mammals, this path integration process (dead reckoning) can occur on the basis of purely internal signals, such as vestibular or proprioceptive (re)afferences. We report here that hamsters are also capable of proceeding to a previously learned feeding site through vector information from locomotion only. The subjects compute the direction and distance to the goal by subtracting their current-position vector from the stored nest-to-goal vector. This computation pertains to locations per se and therefore occurs in absolute space, independently of landmark objects. If available, prominent visual cues merely serve to confirm the path planned through the addition of self-generated vectors, whereas visual as well as nonvisual references confirm that the subject has arrived at the goal site.

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