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Bringing touch to virtual reality for studying the hippocampal cognitive map

Supervisors: Dr Julija Krupic, Prof Ole Paulsen

Place cells, grid cells, head-direction cells and boundary cells constitute the major units of the hippocampal cognitive map which forms the basis of our ability to navigate and form episodic memories(1). There is compelling evidence that head direction as well as boundary cells play a key role in shaping place and grid cell responses(2, 3). While the underlying mechanism and anatomical basis of head direction system is well described, the boundary cells remain poorly understood. They are found in the subiculum and the medial entorhinal cortex, but it is still not clear where and how this signal is generated. Here we will develop a new type of virtual reality based on visual and tactile cues for optical imaging and patch clamp recordings in head-fixed navigating mice to identify, record from and trace boundary cells in the subiculum and the mEC. Most of the currently available virtual realities for head-fixed mice rely on the visual information alone and do not result in normal boundary cell firing properties.


J. O’Keefe, L. Nadel, The Hippocampus as a Cognitive Map (Oxford University Press, 1978).

S. S. Winter, B. J. Clark, J. S. Taube, Spatial navigation. Disruption of the head direction cell network impairs the parahippocampal grid cell signal. Science. 347, 870–874 (2015).

J. Krupic, M. Bauza, S. Burton, C. Barry, J. O’Keefe, Grid cell symmetry is shaped by environmental geometry. Nature. 518, 232–235 (2015).