The anterior thalamic head-direction signal is abolished by bilateral but not unilateral lesions of the lateral mammillary nucleus

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

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84 Scopus citations

Abstract

Head-direction (HD) cells are neurons that signal a rat's directional heading in the horizontal plane. Evidence suggests that the lateral mammillary nucleus (LMN) may play an important role in generating the HD signal. Here, we examined the role of LMN in the HD circuit by comparing the effects of unilateral and bilateral LMN lesions on the activity of HD cells in the anterodorsal thalamus (AD). HD cells were recorded from AD in freely behaving rats. In the middle of the recording session, the rat received either bilateral or unilateral lesions of LMN. Immediately after the lesion, we continued recording the same HD cell in AD that had been recorded before the lesion. Additional cells were recorded from lesioned animals for up to 3 weeks after the lesion. We found that bilateral lesions of LMN permanently abolish HD cells in AD. After bilateral-lesions, AD exhibits unusual rhythmic oscillations and velocity-correlated spike activity. Unilateral lesions of LMN did not abolish HD cells in AD. After unilateral lesions, the firing properties of HD cells in AD become more similar to those of HD cells in the intact hemisphere of LMN. We discuss the implications of these findings for understanding the role of LMN in the HD circuit.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6673-6683
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Volume19
Issue number15
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Aug 1999

Keywords

  • Anterior thalamus
  • Head-direction cell
  • Lateral mammillary nucleus
  • Navigation
  • Path integration
  • Single-unit recording

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