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Speed cells in the medial entorhinal cortex

Nature volume 523, pages 419424 (23 July 2015) | Download Citation

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Abstract

Grid cells in the medial entorhinal cortex have spatial firing fields that repeat periodically in a hexagonal pattern. When animals move, activity is translated between grid cells in accordance with the animal’s displacement in the environment. For this translation to occur, grid cells must have continuous access to information about instantaneous running speed. However, a powerful entorhinal speed signal has not been identified. Here we show that running speed is represented in the firing rate of a ubiquitous but functionally dedicated population of entorhinal neurons distinct from other cell populations of the local circuit, such as grid, head-direction and border cells. These ‘speed cells’ are characterized by a context-invariant positive, linear response to running speed, and share with grid cells a prospective bias of 50–80 ms. Our observations point to speed cells as a key component of the dynamic representation of self-location in the medial entorhinal cortex.

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Acknowledgements

We thank A.M. Amundsgård, K. Haugen, K. Jenssen, E. Kråkvik, and H. Waade for technical assistance, R. Báldi for help with data collection in two initial experiments, J. Couey for inspiring the bottomless car, and A. Treves for discussions. The work was supported by two Advanced Investigator Grants from the European Research Council (‘CIRCUIT’, Grant Agreement No. 232608; ‘GRIDCODE’, Grant Agreement No. 338865), the European Commission’s FP7 FET Proactive programme on Neuro-Bio-Inspired Systems (Grant Agreement 600725), an FP7 collaborative project (‘SPACEBRAIN’, Grant Agreement No. 200873), the Kavli Foundation, the Louis-Jeantet Prize for Medicine, the Centre of Excellence scheme of the Research Council of Norway (Centre for the Biology of Memory and Centre for Neural Computation), and a PICT 2012-0548 Grant to E.K. from the Ministry of Science of Argentina.

Author information

Author notes

    • James E. Carmichael

    Present address: Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755, USA.

Affiliations

  1. Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience and Centre for Neural Computation, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Olav Kyrres gate 9, MTFS, 7491 Trondheim, Norway

    • Emilio Kropff
    • , James E. Carmichael
    • , May-Britt Moser
    •  & Edvard I. Moser
  2. Leloir Institute, IIBBA - CONICET, Buenos Aires, C1405BWE, Argentina

    • Emilio Kropff

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Contributions

E.K., M.-B.M. and E.I.M. designed experiments and analyses; E.K. and J.E.C. performed the experiments; E.K. performed the analyses; E.K. and E.I.M. wrote the paper with input from all authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Emilio Kropff or Edvard I. Moser.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature14622

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