Spatial learning requires estimates of location that may be obtained by path integration or from positional cues. Grid and other spatial firing patterns of neurons in the superficial medial entorhinal cortex (MEC) suggest roles in behavioral estimation of location. However, distinguishing the contributions of path integration and cue-based signals to spatial behaviors is challenging, and the roles of identified MEC neurons are unclear. We use virtual reality to dissociate linear path integration from other strategies for behavioral estimation of location. We find that mice learn to path integrate using motor-related self-motion signals, with accuracy that decreases steeply as a function of distance. We show that inactivation of stellate cells in superficial MEC impairs spatial learning in virtual reality and in a real world object location recognition task. Our results quantify contributions of path integration to behavior and corroborate key predictions of models in which stellate cells contribute to location estimation.
Keywords: behavior; cue-based navigation; entorhinal cortex; learning; location estimation; memory; neural computation; path integration; spatial cognition; virtual reality.
Copyright © 2018 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.