Evidence for the use of an internal sense of direction in homing

Matthijs van der Meer, Zoe Richmond, Rodrigo M Braga, Emma R Wood, Paul A Dudchenko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Path integration, the ability to maintain a representation of location and direction on the basis of internal cues, is thought to be important for navigation and the learning of spatial relationships. Representations of location and direction in the brain, such as head direction cells, grid cells, and place cells in the limbic system, are thought to underlie navigation by path integration. While this idea is generally consistent with lesion studies, the relationship between such neural activity and behavior has not been studied on a task where animals demonstrably use a path integration strategy. Here we report the development of such a task in rats: by slowly rotating rats before their return to a trial-unique home base, we could show subjects relied on internal cues only to navigate. To illustrate how this task can be combined with recording, we show examples of simultaneously recorded head direction cells in which neural activity is closely related to rats' homing direction. These results support the notion that rats can navigate by path integration, that this ability depends on head direction cells, and suggest a convenient behavioral paradigm for investigating the neural basis of navigation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-169
Number of pages6
JournalBehavioral Neuroscience
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2010

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • path integration
  • head direction cell
  • rat


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