Head-direction cells in the rat posterior cortex - II. Contributions of visual and ideothetic information to the directional firing

Longtang L. Chen, Lie Huey Lin, Carol A. Barnes, Brace L. McNaughton

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161 Scopus citations


This study investigated the effects of visual and ideothetica cues on the spatial tuning of head-direction (HD) cells recorded in the rat posterior cortices. Extracellular, single unit responses were recorded from animals performing each of two different tasks, a spatial working memory task on a radial-arm maze and a passive rotation task on a modified "lazy Susan" platform. The influence of visual cues was assessed by manipulating the position of one white and three black cue-cards placed around the maze. We found three major categories of HD cells based on their response to cue manipulations in the maze tasks. Type A cells (10/41) rotated their preferred directions along with the rotation of the cues. The majority (type B, 25/41) of the HD cells were unaffected by the rotation of visual cues, maintaining their established preferred direction. Type C cells (6/41) showed complex responses to cue rotation, with the preferred direction reflecting either a combination of both type A and type B responses or an unpredictable response. The results indicate that the internal representation of directionality can be calibrated by visual cues and that some mnemonic processes may have been involved in the registration of the previous cue locations. Eleven cells were tested in both the maze task and the passive rotation task. Most (9/11) showed a significant directionality in the former task, but showed either no or weak directionality in the latter task, suggesting that movement-related ideothetic cues may be used in supporting the directional firing of these cells. Only two cells showed significant directionality in both tasks. Their established preferred directions did not rotate along with the cues in the maze task, but did rotate with the cues in the passive rotation task. We conclude that the dynamic aspect of the directional tuning in these cortical HD cells may represent on-line calibration of an angular coordinate representation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24-34
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1994


  • Head direction
  • Ideothetic cue
  • Single units
  • Spatial navigation
  • Vision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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