Many animals use a form of dead reckoning known as 'path integration' to maintain a sense of their location as they explore the world. However, internal motion signals and the neural activity that integrates them can be noisy, leading inevitably to inaccurate position estimates. The rat hippocampus and entorhinal cortex support a flexible system of spatial representation that is critical to spatial learning and memory. The position signal encoded by this system is thought to rely on path integration, but it must be recalibrated by familiar landmarks to maintain accuracy. To explore the interaction between path integration and external landmarks, we present a model of hippocampal activity based on the interference of theta-frequency oscillations that are modulated by realistic animal movements around a track. We show that spatial activity degrades with noise, but introducing external cues based on direct sensory feedback can prevent this degradation. When these cues are put into conflict with each other, their interaction produces a diverse array of response changes that resembles experimental observations. Feedback driven by attending to landmarks may be critical to navigation and spatial memory in mammals.
Monaco JD, Knierim JJ, Zhang K (2011) Sensory feedback, error correction, and remapping in a multiple oscillator model of place cell activity Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience 5(0):39 [PubMed]