Science (New York, N.Y.) | 14 Jan 2017
A Sarel, A Finkelstein, L Las and N Ulanovsky
To navigate, animals need to represent not only their own position and orientation, but also the location of their goal. Neural representations of an animal’s own position and orientation have been extensively studied. However, it is unknown how navigational goals are encoded in the brain. We recorded from hippocampal CA1 neurons of bats flying in complex trajectories toward a spatial goal. We discovered a subpopulation of neurons with angular tuning to the goal direction. Many of these neurons were tuned to an occluded goal, suggesting that goal-direction representation is memory-based. We also found cells that encoded the distance to the goal, often in conjunction with goal direction. The goal-direction and goal-distance signals make up a vectorial representation of spatial goals, suggesting a previously unrecognized neuronal mechanism for goal-directed navigation.
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