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The Neurobiology of Spatial Behaviour$
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K.J. Jeffery

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780198515241

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198515241.001.0001

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The head direction system and navigation

The head direction system and navigation

(p.173) Chapter 9 The head direction system and navigation
The Neurobiology of Spatial Behaviour

Paul A. Dudchenko

Oxford University Press

This chapter offers an overview of the basic properties of head direction (HD) cells. It then outlines data on a central, unanswered question about the head direction system: what is its function? It concludes with a perhaps unexpected view on the participation of HD cells in spatial behaviour. The HD system consists of cells strongly responsive to the direction in which the animal is facing, and therefore may possibly serve as a directional representation or ‘internal compass’ that allows an animal to orient itself in space. It also outlines the anatomy of this circuit and describes how the properties of HD cells are consistent with the hypothesis that these cells sustain the directional component of the mammalian path integrator. It may be that HD cells only underlie specific types of spatial behaviour, and thus predicting the animals' behaviour based on the relative orientation of its HD cells is only possible in some, yet to be fully specified, spatial tasks.

Keywords:   head direction system, navigation, spatial behaviour, head direction cells, spatial tasks, internal compass

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