Following the groundbreaking discovery of grid cells, the medial entorhinal cortex (MEC) has become the focus of intense anatomical, physiological, and computational investigations. Whether and how grid activity maps onto cell types and cortical architecture is still an open question. Fundamental similarities in microcircuits, function, and connectivity suggest a homology between rodent MEC and human posteromedial entorhinal cortex. Both are specialized for spatial processing and display similar cellular organization, consisting of layer 2 pyramidal/calbindin cell patches superimposed on scattered stellate neurons. Recent data indicate the existence of a further nonoverlapping modular system (zinc patches) within the superficial MEC layers. Zinc and calbindin patches have been shown to receive largely segregated inputs from the presubiculum and parasubiculum. Grid cells are also clustered in the MEC, and we discuss possible structure-function schemes on how grid activity could map onto cortical patch systems. We hypothesize that in the superficial layers of the MEC, anatomical location can be predictive of function; thus relating functional properties and neuronal morphologies to the cortical modules will be necessary for resolving how grid activity maps onto cortical architecture. Imaging or cell identification approaches in freely moving animals will be required for testing this hypothesis.
Keywords: cortical modules; entorhinal cortex; grid cells; hippocampus; spatial navigation.