Head Direction cells

A long-standing interest in our lab is the function of the head direction cell system. A particular question is what this remarkable system actually does for the animal. We are attempting to answer this question by recording from head direction neurons while animals engage in different types of navigation and spatial memory tasks.

head direction cell graphs

A head direction cell fires whenever the rat faces a specific direction in its environment. The direction in which a given cell fires can be shown by plotting the firing rate of the neuron for the different head directions the rat faces. A polar plot (right figure) also shows the tuning of an individual head direction cell. Different HD cells fire in different directions, and the entire 360 degree surround of the animal appears to be equally represented.