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Article

Navigation Patterns and Scent Marking: Underappreciated Contributors to Hippocampal and Entorhinal Spatial Representations?

Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. 2018. Vol. 12. No. 98. P. 1-8.
Lebedev M., Пимашкин А. С., Ossadtchi A.

According to the currently prevalent theory, hippocampal formation constructs and maintains cognitive spatial maps. Most of the experimental evidence for this theory comes from the studies on navigation in laboratory rats and mice, typically male animals. While these animals exhibit a rich repertoire of behaviors associated with navigation, including locomotion, head movements, whisking, sniffing, raring and scent marking, the contribution of these behavioral patterns to hippocampal activity has not been sufficiently studied. Instead, many publications have considered animal position in space as the single variable that affects the firing of hippocampal place cells and entorhinal grid cells. Here we argue that future work should focus on a more detailed examination of different behaviors exhibited during navigation in order to interpret the cause of spatial tuning in hippocampal neurons. As a step in this direction, we have analyzed data from two datasets, shared online, containing recordings from rats navigating in square and round arenas. Our analyses revealed structured, grid-like navigation patterns, evident from the spatial maps of animal position, velocity and acceleration. Moreover, grid cells available in the datasets exhibited the same spatial periodicity as the navigation parameters. These findings cast doubt on the cognitive-map interpretation of grid cells, since they suggest that neuronal spatial patterns could be caused by behaviors associated with navigation instead of representing a hierarchically high spatial map. Additionally, we speculate that scent marks left by navigating animals could contribute to neuronal responses while rats and mice sniff their environment.