The anatomical and computational basis of the rat head-direction cell signal

Patricia E. Sharp, Hugh T. Blair, Jeiwon Cho

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

191 Scopus citations


As a rat navigates through space, neurons called head-direction (HD) cells provide a signal of the rat's momentary directional heading. Although partly guided by landmarks, the cells also show a remarkable ability to track directional heading based on angular head movement. Theoretical models suggest that the HD cells are linked together to form an attractor network, and that cells which signal angular velocity update the directional setting of the attractor. Recently, cell types similar to those required theoretically have been discovered in the lateral mammillary and dorsal tegmental nuclei. Lesion and anatomical data suggest these nuclei might constitute the postulated attractor-path integration mechanism, and that they provide the HD cell signal to cortical areas where it has been observed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-294
Number of pages6
JournalTrends in Neurosciences
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 May 2001

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research support was from NIH (MH11102 and NS35191), Whitehall Foundation (A94-06), and NSF (9120131). We thank three anonymous reviewers who provided helpful comments on this manuscript.


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