Neurons in Primate Entorhinal Cortex Represent Gaze Position in Multiple Spatial Reference Frames

J Neurosci. 2018 Mar 7;38(10):2430-2441. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2432-17.2018. Epub 2018 Jan 31.


Primates rely predominantly on vision to gather information from the environment and neurons representing visual space and gaze position are found in many brain areas. Within the medial temporal lobe, a brain region critical for memory, neurons in the entorhinal cortex of macaque monkeys exhibit spatial selectivity for gaze position. Specifically, the firing rate of single neurons reflects fixation location within a visual image (Killian et al., 2012). In the rodents, entorhinal cells such as grid cells, border cells, and head direction cells show spatial representations aligned to visual environmental features instead of the body (Hafting et al., 2005; Sargolini et al., 2006; Solstad et al., 2008; Diehl et al., 2017). However, it is not known whether similar allocentric representations exist in primate entorhinal cortex. Here, we recorded neural activity in the entorhinal cortex in two male rhesus monkeys during a naturalistic, free-viewing task. Our data reveal that a majority of entorhinal neurons represent gaze position and that simultaneously recorded neurons represent gaze position relative to distinct spatial reference frames, with some neurons aligned to the visual image and others aligned to the monkey's head position. Our results also show that entorhinal neural activity can be used to predict gaze position with a high degree of accuracy. These findings demonstrate that visuospatial representation is a fundamental property of entorhinal neurons in primates and suggest that entorhinal cortex may support relational memory and motor planning by coding attentional locus in distinct, behaviorally relevant frames of reference.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The entorhinal cortex, a brain area important for memory, shows striking spatial activity in rodents through grid cells, border cells, head direction cells, and nongrid spatial cells. The majority of entorhinal neurons signal the location of a rodent relative to visual environmental cues, representing the location of the animal relative to space in the world instead of the body. Recently, we found that entorhinal neurons can signal location of gaze while a monkey explores images visually. Here, we report that spatial entorhinal neurons are widespread in the monkey and these neurons are capable of showing a world-based spatial reference frame locked to the bounds of explored images. These results help connect the extensive findings in rodents to the primate.

Keywords: entorhinal cortex; grid cell; medial temporal lobe; memory; primate; reference frame.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Entorhinal Cortex / cytology*
  • Entorhinal Cortex / physiology*
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology*
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Saccades / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology