Grid cells represent an ideal candidate to investigate the allocentric determinants of the brain's cognitive map. Most studies of grid cells emphasized the roles of geometric boundaries within the navigational range of the animal. Behaviors such as novel route-taking between local environments indicate the presence of additional inputs from remote cues beyond the navigational borders. To investigate these influences, we recorded grid cells as rats explored an open-field platform in a room with salient, remote cues. The platform was rotated or translated relative to the room frame of reference. Although the local, geometric frame of reference often exerted the strongest control over the grids, the remote cues demonstrated a consistent, sometimes dominant, countervailing influence. Thus, grid cells are controlled by both local geometric boundaries and remote spatial cues, consistent with prior studies of hippocampal place cells and providing a rich representational repertoire to support complex navigational (and perhaps mnemonic) processes.
Keywords: cognitive map; grid cell; hippocampal formation; navigation; neuroscience; rat; spatial orientation.