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      Space in the brain: how the hippocampal formation supports spatial cognition

      1 , 2 , 3 , 4
      Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
      The Royal Society

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          Abstract

          Over the past four decades, research has revealed that cells in the hippocampal formation provide an exquisitely detailed representation of an animal's current location and heading. These findings have provided the foundations for a growing understanding of the mechanisms of spatial cognition in mammals, including humans. We describe the key properties of the major categories of spatial cells: place cells, head direction cells, grid cells and boundary cells, each of which has a characteristic firing pattern that encodes spatial parameters relating to the animal's current position and orientation. These properties also include the theta oscillation, which appears to play a functional role in the representation and processing of spatial information. Reviewing recent work, we identify some themes of current research and introduce approaches to computational modelling that have helped to bridge the different levels of description at which these mechanisms have been investigated. These range from the level of molecular biology and genetics to the behaviour and brain activity of entire organisms. We argue that the neuroscience of spatial cognition is emerging as an exceptionally integrative field which provides an ideal test-bed for theories linking neural coding, learning, memory and cognition.

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          Most cited references174

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          Microstructure of a spatial map in the entorhinal cortex.

          The ability to find one's way depends on neural algorithms that integrate information about place, distance and direction, but the implementation of these operations in cortical microcircuits is poorly understood. Here we show that the dorsocaudal medial entorhinal cortex (dMEC) contains a directionally oriented, topographically organized neural map of the spatial environment. Its key unit is the 'grid cell', which is activated whenever the animal's position coincides with any vertex of a regular grid of equilateral triangles spanning the surface of the environment. Grids of neighbouring cells share a common orientation and spacing, but their vertex locations (their phases) differ. The spacing and size of individual fields increase from dorsal to ventral dMEC. The map is anchored to external landmarks, but persists in their absence, suggesting that grid cells may be part of a generalized, path-integration-based map of the spatial environment.
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            Theta oscillations in the hippocampus.

            Theta oscillations represent the "on-line" state of the hippocampus. The extracellular currents underlying theta waves are generated mainly by the entorhinal input, CA3 (Schaffer) collaterals, and voltage-dependent Ca(2+) currents in pyramidal cell dendrites. The rhythm is believed to be critical for temporal coding/decoding of active neuronal ensembles and the modification of synaptic weights. Nevertheless, numerous critical issues regarding both the generation of theta oscillations and their functional significance remain challenges for future research.
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              Place navigation impaired in rats with hippocampal lesions

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
                Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B
                The Royal Society
                0962-8436
                1471-2970
                February 05 2014
                February 05 2014
                February 05 2014
                February 05 2014
                : 369
                : 1635
                : 20120510
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Psychology, University of York, York, UK
                [2 ]Department of Psychology, University of Durham, Durham, UK
                [3 ]Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, UK
                [4 ]Sainsbury Wellcome Centre, University College London, London, UK
                Article
                10.1098/rstb.2012.0510
                3866435
                24366125
                f4da8d18-76c5-4b6b-8433-af0cadc881d8
                © 2014

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