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Retrosplenial cortex maps the conjunction of internal and external spaces

Nature Neuroscience volume 18, pages 11431151 (2015) | Download Citation

Abstract

Intelligent behavior demands not only multiple forms of spatial representation, but also coordination among the brain regions mediating those representations. Retrosplenial cortex is densely interconnected with the majority of cortical and subcortical brain structures that register an animal's position in multiple internal and external spatial frames of reference. This unique anatomy suggests that it functions to integrate distinct forms of spatial information and provides an interface for transformations between them. Evidence for this was found in rats traversing two different routes placed at different environmental locations. Retrosplenial ensembles robustly encoded conjunctions of progress through the current route, position in the larger environment and the left versus right turning behavior of the animal. Thus, the retrosplenial cortex has the requisite dynamics to serve as an intermediary between brain regions generating different forms of spatial mapping, a result that is consistent with navigational and episodic memory impairments following damage to this region in humans.

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Acknowledgements

We thank S. Cowen, L. Quinn, L. Rangel, J. Olson and L. Shelley for reviewing the manuscript. Special thanks to A. Chiba, B. La and S. Kolbu for helping with the design and implementation of experiments and analyses. This work funded by National Science Foundation IOS-1149718 and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship DGE-1144086.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Cognitive Science, University of California, San Diego, San Diego, California, USA.

    • Andrew S Alexander
    •  & Douglas A Nitz

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Contributions

A.S.A. and D.A.N. each contributed to all components of the work (design, experimentation, analysis and writing).

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Douglas A Nitz.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nn.4058

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