Animals integrate multiple sensory inputs to successfully navigate in their environments. Head direction (HD), boundary vector, grid and place cells in the entorhinal-hippocampal network form the brain’s navigational system that allows to identify the animal’s current location, but how the functions of these specialized neuron types are acquired remain to be understood. Here we report that activity of HD neurons is influenced by the ambulatory constraints imposed upon the animal by the boundaries of the explored environment, leading to spurious spatial information. However, in the post-subiculum, the main cortical stage of HD signal processing, HD neurons convey true spatial information in the form of border modulated activity through the integration of additional sensory modalities relative to egocentric position, unlike their driving thalamic inputs. These findings demonstrate how the combination of HD and egocentric information can be transduced into a spatial code.
A cognitive map of space must integrate allocentric cues such as head direction (HD) with various egocentric cues. Here the authors report that anterior thalamic (ADn) neurons encode a pure HD signal, while neurons in post-subiculum represent a conjunction of HD and egocentric cues such as body posture with respect to environment boundaries.