New theory for the origin of the grid cells discovered

Biotech Nigeria

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich neurobiologists presents a new theory for the origin of the grid cells required for spatial orientation in the mammalian brain, which assigns a vital role to the timing of trains of signals they receive from neurons called place cells.


Nerve cells in the brain known as place cells and grid cells, respectively, play a crucial role in spatial navigation in mammals. Individual place cells in the hippocampus respond to only a few spatial locations. The grid cells in the entorhinal complex, on the other hand, fire at multiple positions in the environment, such that specific sets are consecutively activated as an animal traverses its habitat. These activation patterns give rise to a virtual map, made up of a hexagonal arrangement of grid cells that reflect the relative distances between particular landmarks in the real world. The brain is therefore capable of constructing a virtual map which encodes its own position in space.


... a new theoretical model, which for the first time provides a plausible model based on known biological processes. The model implies that the development of grid cells and their response fields depend on synaptic input from place cells. 


"The models so far proposed to explain the development of grid cells on the basis of input from place cells were unspecific about the precise underlying biological mechanisms. We have now, for the first time, been able to construct a coherent model for the origin of grid cells which makes use of known biological mechanisms," says Christian Leibold. The new model implies that grid cells are generated by a neuronal learning process. This process exploits synaptic plasticity to transform temporal coordinated signalling between place cells into the hexagonal patterns of grid-cells responses observed in the entorhinal complex. The model, therefore, predicts that the grid cells should first arise in the deep layers of the entorhinal cortex.


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