Vestibular control of entorhinal cortex activity in spatial navigation

  • Jacob Pierre-Yves
  • Poucet Bruno
  • Liberge Martine
  • Save Etienne
  • Sargolini Francesca

  • Theta rhythm
  • Rat
  • Vestibular system
  • Entorhinal cortex
  • Path integration
  • Grid cells


Navigation in rodents depends on both self-motion (idiothetic) and external (allothetic) information. Idiothetic information has a predominant role when allothetic information is absent or irrelevant. The vestibular system is a major source of idiothetic information in mammals. By integrating the signals generated by angular and linear accelerations during exploration, a rat is able to generate and update a vector pointing to its starting place and to perform accurate return. This navigation strategy, called path integration, has been shown to involve a network of brain structures. Among these structures, the entorhinal cortex (EC) may play a pivotal role as suggested by lesion and electrophysiological data. In particular, it has been recently discovered that some neurons in the medial EC display multiple firing fields producing a regular grid-like pattern across the environment. Such regular activity may arise from the integration of idiothetic information. This hypothesis would be strongly strengthened if it was shown that manipulation of vestibular information interferes with grid cell activity. In the present paper we review neuroanatomical and functional evidence indicating that the vestibular system influences the activity of the brain network involved in spatial navigation. We also provide new data on the effects of reversible inactivation of the peripheral vestibular system on the EC theta rhythm. The main result is that tetrodotoxin (TTX) administration abolishes velocity-controlled theta oscillations in the EC, indicating that vestibular information is necessary for EC activity. Since recent data demonstrate that disruption of theta rhythm in the medial EC induces a disorganization of grid cell firing, our findings indicate that the integration of idiothetic information in the EC is essential to form a spatial representation of the environment.