Social place-cells in the bat hippocampus
Social animals have to know the spatial positions of conspecifics. However, it is unknown how the position of others is represented in the brain. We designed a spatial observational-learning task, in which an observer bat mimicked a demonstrator bat while we recorded hippocampal dorsal-CA1 neurons from the observer bat. A neuronal subpopulation represented the position of the other bat, in allocentric coordinates. About half of these “social place-cells” represented also the observer’s own position—that is, were place cells. The representation of the demonstrator bat did not reflect self-movement or trajectory planning by the observer. Some neurons represented also the position of inanimate moving objects; however, their representation differed from the representation of the demonstrator bat. This suggests a role for hippocampal CA1 neurons in social-spatial cognition.