Head-direction cells have frequently been regarded as an internal 'compass' that can be used for navigation, although there is little evidence showing a link between their activity and spatial behavior. In a navigational task requiring the use of internal cues to return to a home location without vision (path integration), we found a robust correlation between head-direction cell activity and the rat's heading error in the rat's homing behavior. We observed two different correction processes that rats used to improve performance after an error. The more frequent one consists of 'resetting' the cell whenever the rat returns to the home location. However, we found that when large errors occur, the head-direction system has the ability to 'remap' and set a new reference frame, which is then used in subsequent trials. We also offer some insight into how these two correction processes operate when rats make an error.
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We thank R. Leaton, P. Trifieff and E. Lesburgueres for their valuable comments on the manuscript. These experiments were supported by US National Institutes of Health grants DC009318 and NS053907.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
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Valerio, S., Taube, J. Path integration: how the head direction signal maintains and corrects spatial orientation. Nat Neurosci 15, 1445–1453 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.3215
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