Environment symmetry drives a multidirectional code in rat retrosplenial cortex

Zhang, N., Grieves, R. M. and Jeffery, K. J. (2022) Environment symmetry drives a multidirectional code in rat retrosplenial cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 42(49), pp. 9227-9241. (doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0619-22.2022) (PMID:36302638)

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We investigated how environment symmetry shapes the neural processing of direction, by recording directionally tuned retrosplenial neurons in male Lister-hooded rats exploring multi-compartment environments that had different levels of global rotational symmetry. Our hypothesis built on prior observations of twofold symmetry in the directional tuning curves of rats in a globally twofold-symmetric environment. To test whether environment symmetry was the relevant factor shaping the directional responses, here we deployed the same apparatus (two connected rectangular boxes) plus one with fourfold symmetry (a 2x2 array of connected square boxes) and one with onefold symmetry (a circular open-field arena). Consistent with our hypothesis we found many neurons with tuning curve symmetries that mirrored these environment symmetries, having twofold, fourfold or onefold-symmetric tuning respectively. Some cells expressed this pattern only globally (across the whole environment), maintaining singular tuning curves in each subcompartment. However, others also expressed it locally, within each subcompartment. Since multidirectionality has not been reported in naïve rats in single environmental compartments, this suggests an experience-dependent effect of global environment symmetry on local firing symmetry. An intermingled population of directional neurons were “classic” head direction cells, with globally referenced directional tuning: these cells were electrophysiologically distinct, with narrower tuning curves and a burstier firing pattern. Thus, retrosplenial directional neurons can simultaneously encode overall head direction and local head direction (relative to compartment layout). Furthermore, they can learn about global environment symmetry and express this locally: this may be important for the encoding of environment structure beyond immediate perceptual reach.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This research was funded in part by the Wellcome Trust [Grant number WT103896AIA]. The work was also supported by a grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BB/Joo9792/1) to K.J.J, and a China Scholarship Council Research Excellence Scholarship for PhD programme to N.Z. (201608000007).
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Jeffery, Professor Kate
Creator Roles:
Jeffery, K. J.Conceptualization, Methodology, Data curation, Supervision, Resources, Funding acquisition, Writing – review and editing
Authors: Zhang, N., Grieves, R. M., and Jeffery, K. J.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Psychology & Neuroscience
Journal Name:Journal of Neuroscience
Publisher:The Society for Neuroscience
ISSN (Online):1529-2401
Published Online:27 October 2022
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2022 Zhang et al.
First Published:First published in Journal of Neuroscience 42(49): 9227-9241
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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