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Three-dimensional spatial selectivity of hippocampal neurons during space flight

Nature Neurosciencevolume 3pages209210 (2000) | Download Citation



‘Place’ cells of the hippocampus and ‘head-direction’ (HD) cells of the thalamus and limbic cortex derive their spatial and directional specificity from a combination of idiothetic (self-motion) cues and external landmarks, which normally reinforce each other to generate a robust neural code for location and direction1. In weightlessness, however, three-dimensional navigation can cause the idiothetic and landmark cues to conflict. Nonetheless, neural recordings on the space shuttle demonstrated that the hippocampus can create a robust spatial code for three orthogonal surfaces in the weightless environment of space flight.

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We thank the crew of STS-90 (Scott Altman, Jay Buckey, Alex Dunlap, Kay Hire, Rick Linnehan, Chiaki Mukai, Jim Pawelczyk, Rick Searfoss and Dave Williams), Bryan Roberts, Lisa Baer, Mike Eodice, Laurie Dubrovin, Tom Howerton, Louis Ostrach, Chris Maese, Justine Grove, Ali Werner, Dave Bergner, Tom McCarthy, George Swaiss, Steve Carmen, Jim Cockrell and others at NASA-Ames. We also thank Casey Stengel (who designed and built the recording system), Krzystof Jagiello (who designed and wrote the data acquisition software), Kathy Dillon, Shanda Roberts, Shane Smith, Vince Pawlowski, Carol Barnes, Katalin Gothard, Veronica Fedor-Duys, Mark Bower, Karen Reinke, Chris Duffield, Luann Snyder, Doug Wellington and others at the University of Arizona. Additionally, we thank Bill Skaggs and Matt Wilson, who wrote much of the data analysis software, and science and engineering support and management teams at Johnson Space Center and Kennedy Space Center. Supported by grants NAG 2-949 from NASA; NS33471 and NS20331 from NIH; and N0014-98-1-0180 and N0014-96-1-1082 from ONR.

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  1. Arizona Research Laboratories Division of Neural Systems, University of Arizona, Memory & Aging, 384 Life Sciences North Bldg., Tucson, 85724, Arizona, USA

    • James J. Knierim
    • , Bruce L. McNaughton
    •  & Gina R. Poe
  2. Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy and the W. M. Keck Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, University of Texas-Houston Medical School, P.O. Box 20708, Houston, 77225, Texas, USA

    • James J. Knierim


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Correspondence to Bruce L. McNaughton.

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