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How the Internally Organized Direction Sense Is Used to Navigate.


ABSTRACT: Head-direction cells preferentially discharge when the head points in a particular azimuthal direction, are hypothesized to collectively function as a single neural system for a unitary direction sense, and are believed to be essential for navigating extra-personal space by functioning like a compass. We tested these ideas by recording medial entorhinal cortex (MEC) head-direction cells while rats navigated on a familiar, continuously rotating disk that dissociates the environment into two spatial frames: one stationary and one rotating. Head-direction cells degraded directional tuning referenced to either of the externally referenced spatial frames, but firing rates, sub-second cell-pair action potential discharge relationships, and internally referenced directional tuning were preserved. MEC head-direction cell ensemble discharge collectively generates a subjective, internally referenced unitary representation of direction that, unlike a compass, is inconsistently registered to external landmarks during navigation. These findings indicate that MEC-based directional information is subjectively anchored, potentially providing for navigation without a stable externally anchored direction sense.

SUBMITTER: Park EH 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC6336520 | BioStudies | 2019-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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