Focus on Spatial Cognition

Navigation is the ability to estimate one’s own position and to track and plan one’s own path in physical space, be it on land, on sea, in the air or even in space. From an evolutionary perspective, navigation is key to survival, as it helps animals to find food and mates and to avoid threats. In mammals, the hippocampal formation hosts the so-called place, head direction and grid cells, the building blocks of an internal representation of space that guides navigation. In our November 2017 issue, Nature Neuroscience presents a series of reviews and opinion pieces on the theme of spatial cognition. These articles cover a broad range of topics, from the basic cellular mechanisms that contribute to the formation of a cognitive map of space to the use of this internal map for navigation in humans and how the underlying processes may serve other cognitive functions.