Article | Published:

Microstructure of a spatial map in the entorhinal cortex

Nature volume 436, pages 801806 (11 August 2005) | Download Citation

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Abstract

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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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to the members of the Centre for the Biology of Memory as well as W. E. Skaggs, J. Lisman and G. Einevoll for discussions. We also thank the technical team of the Centre for their assistance. This work is supported by the Norwegian Research Council's Centre of Excellence scheme.

Author information

Author notes

    • Torkel Hafting
    •  & Marianne Fyhn

    *These authors contributed equally to this work

    • Sturla Molden

    †Present address: Department of Physiology, University of Oslo, PO Box 1103 Blindern, 0317 Oslo, Norway

Affiliations

  1. Centre for the Biology of Memory, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 7489 Trondheim, Norway

    • Torkel Hafting
    • , Marianne Fyhn
    • , Sturla Molden
    • , May-Britt Moser
    •  & Edvard I. Moser

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Competing interests

Reprints and permissions information is available at npg.nature.com/reprintsandpermissions. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Edvard I. Moser.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Methods

    Supplementary Methods (pdf format), including procedures for computation of spatial autocorrelations and cross-correlations.

  2. 2.

    Supplementary Figure S1

    Temporal autocorrelation diagrams and spatial autocorrelation diagrams for scrambled rate maps.

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    Supplementary Figure S2

    Trajectory and rate maps showing that grid vertices are stable across trials.

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    Supplementary Figure S3

    Trajectory and rate maps showing preserved grid spacing after scaling of the environment.

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    Supplementary Figure S4

    Grids recorded at different dorsoventral positions in dMEC.

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    Supplementary Figure S5

    Spatial cross-correlations between cells recorded simultaneously from areas with different grid spacing.

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    Supplementary Figure S6

    Cue rotation experiment showing alignment of firing grids to environment-specific landmarks

  8. 8.

    Supplementary Figure S7

    Trajectory and rate maps showing maintained grid structure after onset of darkness.

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    Supplementary Figure S8

    Trajectory with spikes in a rat running on a linear track in darkness.

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    Supplementary Figure S9

    Parallel recording of entorhinal grid cells and hippocampal place cells (area CA3).

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nature03721

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