Understanding how our brain perceives space

May 28, 2012, CORDIS
Understanding how our brain perceives space

European scientists looked into the cellular properties of neurons responsible for space coordination. Insight into the neuronal network of the entorhinal cortex will help understand what determines space and movement perception, and also how it is linked to brain-related disorders.

The ability to find one’s way is performed in a special site of the mammalian cortex known as the entorhinal cortex. Information regarding place, direction and destination is processed in specialised neurons called grid cells. These cells present with specific spatially firing fields that repeat at regular intervals and have been found to scale up progressively along the dorsal-ventral axis.

Further dissection of this neural map was the subject of the EU-funded project ‘Spatial representation in the entorhinal neural circuit’ (Entorhinal Circuits). More specifically, scientists hypothesised that the topographic expansion of grid cells paralleled changes in cellular properties and particularly in the current (Ih) which went through hyperpolarisation-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated (HCN) channels.

Using transgenic animals with forebrain-specific knockout of the transmembrane protein HCN1, researchers found that HCN1 modulated grid cell properties, especially the size and spacing of the grid fields. This clearly indicated that HCN1 was crucial for the spatial representation in the entorhinal circuit. It also implies that during self-motion–based navigation, the current that goes through HCN1 is responsible for transforming movement signals to spatial firing fields.

Entorhinal Circuits results offered unique insights into some of the fundamental principles of neuronal assembly and microcircuit operation in the mammalian . The generated knowledge will hopefully shed light into the role of the in various neuronal diseases like Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia.

Explore further: GPS in the head? Rhythmic activity of neurons to code position in space

Related Stories

GPS in the head? Rhythmic activity of neurons to code position in space

September 15, 2011
Prof. Dr. Motoharu Yoshida and colleagues from Boston University investigated how the rhythmic activity of nerve cells supports spatial navigation. The research scientists showed that cells in the entorhinal cortex, which ...

Brain circuits connected with memory discovered

November 7, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A new study published last week in Science reveals the discovery of a brain pathway that helps us link events that happen close together and play a role in memories.

Researchers probe link between theta rhythm, ability of animals to track location

April 28, 2011
In a paper to be published today in the journal Science, a team of Boston University researchers under the direction of Michael Hasselmo, professor of psychology and director of Boston University's Computational Neurophysiology ...

Electrical oscillations critical for storing spatial memories in brain: study

April 28, 2011
Biologists at UC San Diego have discovered that electrical oscillations in the brain, long thought to play a role in organizing cognitive functions such as memory, are critically important for the brain to store the information ...

Recommended for you

Research reveals atomic-level changes in ALS-linked protein

January 18, 2018
For the first time, researchers have described atom-by-atom changes in a family of proteins linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a group of brain disorders known as frontotemporal dementia and degenerative diseases ...

Fragile X finding shows normal neurons that interact poorly

January 18, 2018
Neurons in mice afflicted with the genetic defect that causes Fragile X syndrome (FXS) appear similar to those in healthy mice, but these neurons fail to interact normally, resulting in the long-known cognitive impairments, ...

How your brain remembers what you had for dinner last night

January 17, 2018
Confirming earlier computational models, researchers at University of California San Diego and UC San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Arizona and Louisiana, report that episodic memories are encoded in the hippocampus ...

Recording a thought's fleeting trip through the brain

January 17, 2018
University of California, Berkeley neuroscientists have tracked the progress of a thought through the brain, showing clearly how the prefrontal cortex at the front of the brain coordinates activity to help us act in response ...

Midbrain 'start neurons' control whether we walk or run

January 17, 2018
Locomotion comprises the most fundamental movements we perform. It is a complex sequence from initiating the first step, to stopping when we reach our goal. At the same time, locomotion is executed at different speeds to ...

Neuroscientists suggest a model for how we gain volitional control of what we hold in our minds

January 16, 2018
Working memory is a sort of "mental sketchpad" that allows you to accomplish everyday tasks such as calling in your hungry family's takeout order and finding the bathroom you were just told "will be the third door on the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.