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Giulio Casali (UCL, London)

Altered odometry by grid cells on a climbing wall

Grid cells produce periodic hexagonal arrays of firing fields, supporting the hypothesis that they perform odometry and are the neural basis for path integration. However, while grid cells on the horizontal plane are invariant across different environments, it is currently not known whether those distances vary in 3D space. Here we asked if grid cells respond to movements on the vertical plane in the same way as they do on a horizontal (i.e. are isotropic) while rats move on a climbing wall. We show that the spatial metrics of grid cells on the wall are considerably altered, as they display fewer fields not regularly arranged but of enlarged size. We hypothesized that grid cells may underestimate distances on the wall and we found that the encoding of speed was similarly affected on the wall. Overall these results demonstrate that the neural representation of space in rats is not symmetrical across dimensions but is instead anisotropic.