The neural coding of spatial location for memory function may involve grid cells in the medial entorhinal cortex, but the mechanism of generating the spatial responses of grid cells remains unclear. This review describes some current theories and experimental data concerning the role of sensory input in generating the regular spatial firing patterns of grid cells, and changes in grid cell firing fields with movement of environmental barriers. As described here, the influence of visual features on spatial firing could involve either computations of self-motion based on optic flow, or computations of absolute position based on the angle and distance of static visual cues. Due to anatomical selectivity of retinotopic processing, the sensory features on the walls of an environment may have a stronger effect on ventral grid cells that have wider spaced firing fields, whereas the sensory features on the ground plane may influence the firing of dorsal grid cells with narrower spacing between firing fields. These sensory influences could contribute to the potential functional role of grid cells in guiding goal-directed navigation.
© 2016 The Authors. The Journal of Physiology © 2016 The Physiological Society.