The big questions concerning the cognitive map. The lab is interested in the fine-grained architecture of cognition - in other words, how is information represented in the brain?
A particularly interesting forum for exploring this question is spatial cognition, because work has revealed the existence of a map-like representation of space in the brain that can be used for self-localisation and navigation. This cognitive map seems to reside in a network of neural structures including the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex.
Big questions concerning the cognitive map
- How is it constructed
- What is it for?
Our work involves recording single neurons from these structures in freely moving and exploring rats, to determine how the cells respond to spatial information. The hippocampal neurons (place cells) encode location in a complex, multidimensional space, and some entorhinal neurons (grid cells) have the recently discovered property that they mark out distances across the environment, forming a grid-like array of activity that can presumably be used by other brain structures in spatial computations. We are currently studying these neurons in order to gain insights into how animals construct a map of complex space that can be used for navigation, and which also seems to be important for forming "autobiographical" memory for life events.
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