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Role of the medial entorhinal cortex in spatial information processing: behavioral and electrophysiological studies

Abstract : Since the discovery of entorhinal grid cells, the medial entorhinal cortex (MEC) has received a major interest in studies on the neural bases of spatial navigation. The multi-positional activity of these neurons forms a universal Euclidian map which can be used to calculate a position, a direction and a distance. The MEC also contains neurons whose firing is correlated with the rat head direction, with both the position and the direction, or with the limits of the environment. The current hypotheses suggest that the MEC has an important role in processing spatial information based on self-motion cues (idiothetic information). Besides, the MEC spatial activity would be necessary for generating the hippocampal spatial representation, which is characterized by the presence of place cells, that are selectively activated when the animal is at specific locations in a given environment. The work conducted during my PhD thesis was aimed at understanding the nature of the spatial representation formed by the MEC. First, we show that the MEC codes specifically distance information which is necessary for a type of navigation based on idiothetic cues, called path integration. Then, we observe that the vestibular system, an important source of idiothetic information in the brain, influences the MEC theta rhythm and its modulation by the animal velocity. In addition, we show that MEC activity is necessary for the stability of place cells activity. Finally, we observe that entorhinal grid cells activity is modified by the information available in the environment (allothetic information). Together, our results show that the MEC processes and integrates idiothetic information as well as allothetic information. These data suggest that the entorhinal map is not a universal metric based on idiothetic information, but is flexible and dependant on the information present in the environment. In addition, the entorhinal map is not required for the generation of place cells activity, contrary to the dominant hypothesis.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, January 31, 2017 - 4:12:23 PM
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Jacob Pierre-Yves. Role of the medial entorhinal cortex in spatial information processing: behavioral and electrophysiological studies. Sciences cognitives. Aix Marseille Université, 2014. Français. ⟨tel-01446689⟩

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