When brain’s GPS goes awry, barriers can reboot it | Science News

SUPPORT SCIENCE NEWS

Science News is a nonprofit.

Help us keep you informed.


News in Brief

When brain’s GPS goes awry, barriers can reboot it

Running into a literal boundary aids reorientation, mouse study shows

By
12:00pm, April 16, 2015
Mouse map

MOUSE MAP  As a mouse meanders farther away from a border (one path highlighted in blue), a grid cell’s pattern of behavior (red) becomes less regular, distorting the animal’s internal map. Hitting the border can reset it, a study suggests.

If you’re ever lost in Los Angeles, just head for the ocean to get your bearings. This advice works because running into the coast — or any other border — can reset an errant internal GPS system, a new study in mice suggests. 

The results help explain how the brain maintains a high-fidelity map of the environment. Specialized brain cells called grid cells signal when an animal reaches certain locales — a discovery that garnered a Nobel Prize in 2014 (SN Online, 10/6/14). Boundaries help course-correct these cells when they go off track, researchers report April 16 in Neuron.

In the experiment, electrodes implanted in the brain monitored the behavior of grid cells as mice moved around in an expansive enclosure. As the mice traveled, grid

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now. Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content