Visualizing location

May-Britt Moser with a research rat at the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience
Thinking outside of the box: May-Britt Moser next to a typical recording environment. In this square environment, the rat forages for cookie crumbles while signals from brain cells are recorded. Credit: CBM/Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience Hi-res version.

Grid modules
Spatial location is closely connected to the formation of new memories. Until now, grid cells were thought to be part of a single unified map system. New findings from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology demonstrate that the grid system is in fact composed of a number of independent grid maps, each with unique properties. Each map displays a particular resolution (mesh size), and responds independently to changes in the environment. A system of several distinct grid maps (illustrated on left) can support a large number of unique combinatorial codes used to associate new memories formed with specific spatial information (illustrated on right). The findings are published in the 6 December issue of the journal Nature and are a part of doctoral research conducted by Hanne Stensola (picture) and Tor Stensola at the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience. Credit: Tor Stensola, CBM/Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience Hi-res version.

Grid cells

The entorhinal cortex is a part of the neocortex that represents space by way of brain cells that have GPS-like properties. Each cell describes the environment as a hexagonal grid mesh, earning them the name ‘grid cells'. The panels show a bird's-eye view of a rat's recorded movements (grey trace) in a 2.2x2.2 m box. Each panel shows the activity of one grid cell (blue dots) with a particular map resolution as the animal moved through the environment. Credit: Tor Stensola, CBM/Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience   Hi-res version.