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Is There a Geometric Module for Spatial Orientation? Insights From a Rodent Navigation Model

Summary: Is There a Geometric Module for Spatial Orientation?
Insights From a Rodent Navigation Model
Denis Sheynikhovich, Ricardo Chavarriaga, Thomas Stro¨sslin, Angelo Arleo, and Wulfram Gerstner
E´cole Polytechnique Fe´de´rale de Lausanne
Modern psychological theories of spatial cognition postulate the existence of a geometric module for
reorientation. This concept is derived from experimental data showing that in rectangular arenas with
distinct landmarks in the corners, disoriented rats often make diagonal errors, suggesting their preference
for the geometric (arena shape) over the nongeometric (landmarks) cues. Moreover, sensitivity of
hippocampal cell firing to changes in the environment layout was taken in support of the geometric
module hypothesis. Using a computational model of rat navigation, the authors proposed and tested the
alternative hypothesis that the influence of spatial geometry on both behavioral and neuronal levels can
be explained by the properties of visual features that constitute local views of the environment. Their
modeling results suggest that the pattern of diagonal errors observed in reorientation tasks can be
understood by the analysis of sensory information processing that underlies the navigation strategy
employed to solve the task. In particular, 2 navigation strategies were considered: (a) a place-based locale
strategy that relies on a model of grid and place cells and (b) a stimulus­response taxon strategy that
involves direct association of local views with action choices. The authors showed that the application
of the 2 strategies in the reorientation tasks results in different patterns of diagonal errors, consistent with
behavioral data. These results argue against the geometric module hypothesis by providing a simpler and
biologically more plausible explanation for the related experimental data. Moreover, the same model also


Source: Arleo, Angelo - Laboratory of Neurobiology of Adaptive Processes, Université Pierre-et-Marie-Curie, Paris 6


Collections: Biology and Medicine