Navigating with grid and place cells in cluttered environments
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Hippocampal formation contains several classes of neurons thought to be involved in navigational processes, in particular place cells and grid cells. Place cells have been associated with a topological strategy for navigation, while grid cells have been suggested to support metric vector navigation. Grid cell‐based vector navigation can support novel shortcuts across unexplored territory by providing the direction toward the goal. However, this strategy is insufficient in natural environments cluttered with obstacles. Here, we show how navigation in complex environments can be supported by integrating a grid cell‐based vector navigation mechanism with local obstacle avoidance mediated by border cells and place cells whose interconnections form an experience‐dependent topological graph of the environment. When vector navigation and object avoidance fail (i.e., the agent gets stuck), place cell replay events set closer subgoals for vector navigation. We demonstrate that this combined navigation model can successfully traverse environments cluttered by obstacles and is particularly useful where the environment is underexplored. Finally, we show that the model enables the simulated agent to successfully navigate experimental maze environments from the animal literature on cognitive mapping. The proposed model is sufficiently flexible to support navigation in different environments, and may inform the design of experiments to relate different navigational abilities to place, grid, and border cell firing.