Dead reckoning (path integration) requires the hippocampal formation: evidence from spontaneous exploration and spatial learning tasks in light (allothetic) and dark (idiothetic) tests

Behav Brain Res. 2001 Dec 14;127(1-2):49-69. doi: 10.1016/s0166-4328(01)00359-x.


Animals navigate using cues generated by their own movements (self-movement cues or idiothetic cues), as well as the cues they encounter in their environment (distal cues or allothetic cues). Animals use these cues to navigate in two different ways. When dead reckoning (deduced reckoning or path integration), they integrate self-movement cues over time to locate a present position or to return to a starting location. When piloting, they use allothetic cues as beacons, or they use the relational properties of allothetic cues to locate places in space. The neural structures involved in cue use and navigational strategies are still poorly understood, although considerable attention is directed toward the contributions of the hippocampal formation (hippocampus and associated pathways and structures, including the fimbria-fornix and the retrosplenial cortex). In the present study, using tests in allothetic and idiothetic paradigms, we present four lines of evidence to support the hypothesis that the hippocampal formation plays a central role in dead reckoning. (1) Control but not fimbria-fornix lesion rats can return to a novel refuge location in both light and dark (infrared) food carrying tasks. (2). Control but not fimbria-fornix lesion rats make periodic direct high velocity returns to a starting location in both light and dark exploratory tests. Control but not fimbria-fornix rats trained in the light to carry food from a fixed location to a refuge are able to maintain accurate outward and homebound trajectories when tested in the dark. (3). Control but not fimbria-fornix rats are able to correct an outward trajectory to a food source when the food source is moved when allothetic cues are present. These, tests of spontaneous exploration and foraging suggest a role for the hippocampal formation in dead reckoning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Appetitive Behavior*
  • Cues
  • Exploratory Behavior*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / pathology
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Learning*
  • Neural Pathways
  • Orientation*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Space Perception*