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Appears in Collections:Psychology Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: The Head Direction Cell System and Behavior: The Effects of Lesions to the Lateral Mammillary Bodies on Spatial Memory in a Novel Landmark Task and in the Water Maze
Author(s): Harland, Bruce
Wood, Emma R
Dudchenko, Paul
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Keywords: landmarks
spatial learning
sense of direction
Issue Date: Dec-2015
Date Deposited: 25-Nov-2015
Citation: Harland B, Wood ER & Dudchenko P (2015) The Head Direction Cell System and Behavior: The Effects of Lesions to the Lateral Mammillary Bodies on Spatial Memory in a Novel Landmark Task and in the Water Maze. Behavioral Neuroscience, 129 (6), pp. 709-719.
Abstract: The head direction system is composed of neurons found in a number of connected brain areas that fire in a sharply tuned, directional way. The function of this system, however, has not been fully established. To assess this, we devised a novel spatial landmark task, comparable to the paradigms in which stimulus control has been assessed for spatially tuned neurons. The task took place in a large cylinder and required rats to dig in a specific sand cup, from among 16 alternatives, to obtain a food reward. The reinforced cup was in a fixed location relative to a salient landmark, and probe sessions confirmed that the landmark exerted stimulus control over the rats’ cup choices. To assess the contribution of the head direction cell system to this memory task, half of the animals received ibotenic acid infusions into the lateral mammillary nuclei (LMN), an essential node in the head direction network, while the other received sham lesions. No differences were observed in performance of this task between the 2 groups. Animals with LMN lesions were impaired, however, in reversal learning on a water maze task. These results suggest that the LMN, and potentially the head direction cell system, are not essential for the use of visual landmarks to guide spatial behavior.
DOI Link: 10.1037/bne0000106
Rights: This article has been published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Copyright for this article is retained by the author(s). Author(s) grant(s) the American Psychological Association the exclusive right to publish the article and identify itself as the original publisher.
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