Dissecting the neural components of the hippocampal cognitive map


  • Prof John O'Keefe

    University College London

Project summary

The rodent hippocampus contains cells which tell the animal where it is, which direction it is pointing, how close it is to large landmarks and how far it has travelled in familiar environments. These cells act together to provide the animal with a cognitive map, a kind of GPS in the brain which enables it to identify its current location and to find its way towards good locations and away from bad ones.

My research involves teaching the animal different spatial tasks such as finding an unmarked location in a familiar environment to see how they learn this task. I will use physiological techniques to record brain activity during these behaviours in order to understand more about the role of the different spatial cells in constructing the animal’s representation of the environment and how it navigates.

In addition to providing fundamental information about this part of the hippocampus, the results will provide the foundation for future research into how these cells become dysfunctional in animal models of dementia.