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Science. 2015 Feb 20;347(6224):870-874. doi: 10.1126/science.1259591. Epub 2015 Feb 5.

Spatial navigation. Disruption of the head direction cell network impairs the parahippocampal grid cell signal.

Author information

Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, USA.
Contributed equally


Navigation depends on multiple neural systems that encode the moment-to-moment changes in an animal's direction and location in space. These include head direction (HD) cells representing the orientation of the head and grid cells that fire at multiple locations, forming a repeating hexagonal grid pattern. Computational models hypothesize that generation of the grid cell signal relies upon HD information that ascends to the hippocampal network via the anterior thalamic nuclei (ATN). We inactivated or lesioned the ATN and subsequently recorded single units in the entorhinal cortex and parasubiculum. ATN manipulation significantly disrupted grid and HD cell characteristics while sparing theta rhythmicity in these regions. These results indicate that the HD signal via the ATN is necessary for the generation and function of grid cell activity.

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