The "GPS" Neuron

“In one experiment, the researchers were able to monitor 309 neurons in the three bats. Around one-third of these neurons were simple place cells, firing when the bats flew over a particular spot. But 58 were tuned to the angular direction of the destination. A majority of these vector cells fired at their highest rates when the bat was heading directly to the goal. The neurons remained tuned to goal direction throughout the bats’ long and convoluted flights. Forty-nine neurons responded to distance to goal, and most fired at their highest rates when the bat was within two metres. Twenty-four cells were tuned to both angle and distance.”

Neuroscience has come a long way in short time. Bats are clearly so advanced in their navigational abilities it’ll be very interesting to see how similar this process is in other mammals. It does seem a bit surprising that for bats with their superior echolocation abilities, that navigation is more closely related to memory than sensory data.