Nature Reviews Neuroscience 7, 663-678 (August 2006) | doi:10.1038/nrn1932

Path integration and the neural basis of the 'cognitive map'

Bruce L. McNaughton1,4, Francesco P. Battaglia2, Ole Jensen3, Edvard I Moser4 & May-Britt Moser4  About the authors


The hippocampal formation can encode relative spatial location, without reference to external cues, by the integration of linear and angular self-motion (path integration). Theoretical studies, in conjunction with recent empirical discoveries, suggest that the medial entorhinal cortex (MEC) might perform some of the essential underlying computations by means of a unique, periodic synaptic matrix that could be self-organized in early development through a simple, symmetry-breaking operation. The scale at which space is represented increases systematically along the dorsoventral axis in both the hippocampus and the MEC, apparently because of systematic variation in the gain of a movement-speed signal. Convergence of spatially periodic input at multiple scales, from so-called grid cells in the entorhinal cortex, might result in non-periodic spatial firing patterns (place fields) in the hippocampus.

Author affiliations

  1. Arizona Research Laboratories Division of Neural Systems, Memory & Aging, and Departments of Psychology & Physiology, University of Arizona, Tucson 85724, USA.
  2. Graduate School of Neuroscience Amsterdam, Center for Neuroscience, Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Amsterdam 1090GB, The Netherlands.
  3. F.C. Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Nijmegen NL-6500HB, The Netherlands.
  4. Centre for the Biology of Memory, Norwegian University of Science & Technology, Trondheim NO-7489, Norway.

Correspondence to: Bruce L. McNaughton1,4 Email:


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