Representation of three-dimensional space in the hippocampus of flying bats

Science. 2013 Apr 19;340(6130):367-72. doi: 10.1126/science.1235338.


Many animals, on air, water, or land, navigate in three-dimensional (3D) environments, yet it remains unclear how brain circuits encode the animal's 3D position. We recorded single neurons in freely flying bats, using a wireless neural-telemetry system, and studied how hippocampal place cells encode 3D volumetric space during flight. Individual place cells were active in confined 3D volumes, and in >90% of the neurons, all three axes were encoded with similar resolution. The 3D place fields from different neurons spanned different locations and collectively represented uniformly the available space in the room. Theta rhythmicity was absent in the firing patterns of 3D place cells. These results suggest that the bat hippocampus represents 3D volumetric space by a uniform and nearly isotropic rate code.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chiroptera / anatomy & histology
  • Chiroptera / psychology*
  • Flight, Animal / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Male
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Theta Rhythm