1. Neuroscience
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Visual landmarks sharpen grid cell metric and confer context specificity to neurons of the medial entorhinal cortex

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Cite this article as: eLife 2016;5:e16937 doi: 10.7554/eLife.16937

Abstract

Neurons of the medial entorhinal cortex (MEC) provide spatial representations critical for navigation. In this network, the periodic firing fields of grid cells act as a metric element for position. The location of the grid firing fields depends on interactions between self-motion information, geometrical properties of the environment and nonmetric contextual cues. Here, we test whether visual information, including nonmetric contextual cues, also regulates the firing rate of MEC neurons. Removal of visual landmarks caused a profound impairment in grid cell periodicity. Moreover, the speed code of MEC neurons changed in darkness and the activity of border cells became less confined to environmental boundaries. Half of the MEC neurons changed their firing rate in darkness. Manipulations of nonmetric visual cues that left the boundaries of a 1D environment in place caused rate changes in grid cells. These findings reveal context specificity in the rate code of MEC neurons.

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The following data sets were generated

Article and author information

Author details

  1. José Antonio Pérez-Escobar

    Department of Clinical Neurobiology, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Olga Kornienko

    Department of Clinical Neurobiology, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Patrick Latuske

    Department of Clinical Neurobiology, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  4. Laura Kohler

    Department of Clinical Neurobiology, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  5. Kevin Allen

    Department of Clinical Neurobiology, Heidelberg University, Heidelberg, Germany
    For correspondence
    allen@uni-heidelberg.de
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-5319-3721

Funding

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (AL 1730/1-1)

  • Kevin Allen

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (SFB 1134)

  • Kevin Allen

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Ethics

Animal experimentation: All experiments were carried out in accordance with the European Committees Directive (86/609/EEC) and were approved by the Governmental Supervisory Panel on Animal Experiments of Baden-Württemberg at Karlsruhe (35-9185.81/G-113/10). Every effort was made to minimize suffering.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Howard Eichenbaum, Boston University, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: April 14, 2016
  2. Accepted: July 21, 2016
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: July 23, 2016 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: August 16, 2016 (version 2)

Copyright

© 2016, Pérez-Escobar et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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