Medial Entorhinal Grid Cells and Head Direction Cells Rotate with a T-Maze More Often During Less Recently Experienced Rotations

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Abstract

Prior studies of head direction (HD) cells indicate strong landmark control over the preferred firing direction of these cells, with few studies exhibiting shifts away from local reference frames over time. We recorded spiking activity of grid and HD cells in the medial entorhinal cortex of rats, testing correlations of local environmental cues with the spatial tuning curves of these cells' firing fields as animals performed continuous spatial alternation on a T-maze that shared the boundaries of an open-field arena. The environment was rotated into configurations the animal had either seen or not seen in the past recording week. Tuning curves of both cell types demonstrated commensurate shifts of tuning with T-maze rotations during less recent rotations, more so than recent rotations. This strongly suggests that animals are shifting their reference frame away from the local environmental cues over time, learning to use a different reference frame more likely reliant on distal or idiothetic cues. In addition, grid fields demonstrated varying levels of “fragmentation” on the T-maze. The propensity for fragmentation does not depend on grid spacing and grid score, nor animal trajectory, indicating the cognitive treatment of environmental subcompartments is likely driven by task demands.

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