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Landmark processing by head direction cells

Lozano Navarro, YR; (2016) Landmark processing by head direction cells. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Head direction (HD) cells are neurons that increase their firing rate whenever a rat faces within a range of heading directions, irrespective of its location within the environment. Their direction-specific firing is multisensory, where visual cues have a dominant role in controlling the preferred firing direction (PFD) to which an HD cell fires. Many studies have examined the role of visual cues in controlling the firing of HD and other spatially modulated cells, however, little is known about how visual information is integrated with a spatial navigation signal. Therefore, the aim of this thesis is to investigate what properties of the visual environment are detected and used by the navigation system. To investigate this question, HD cells were recorded in the retrosplenial cortex (RSC) and the postsubiculum (PoS) of rats as they explored an arena with two oppositely positioned cards that varied in contrast, or the orientation, height and lateral position of a bar. The cue cards were rotated together to test the hypothesis that HD cells use differences in the visual properties of local cues to align their PFD. A second experiment tested the hypothesis that PoS HD cells process the configuration of landmarks, examining changes in the PFD when the spatial relation between multiple local cues was altered. The main finding from these experiments is that contrast and orientation were reliably used as landmarks, while height and lateral position had a weaker effect in controlling the activity of HD cells. The second finding is that PoS HD cells were sensitive to changes in the spatial arrangement of familiar cues, selecting the cues that changed their position over those that remained stationary. Overall, these results show that HD cells process fine-grained visual form which might be used for complex image analysis and landmark processing.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Landmark processing by head direction cells
Event: University College London
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Electrophysiology, Spatial orientation, Visual processing, Circular statistics
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Experimental Psychology
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1473903
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