GPS of the Brain: Marmoset Gaze Reveals New Insights in Spatial Navigation

summary: The researchers discovered that the common monkey, a diurnal primate, navigates its surroundings differently than previously studied mice, reflecting its unique environmental adaptations.

Snail monkeys use visual cues, rely on rapid head-gaze shifts while stationary, and reduced head movements while hopping. In contrast, mice use low-speed head movements and tactile whisker exploration.

At the cellular level, hippocampal regions of the orangutan show selectivity for 3D view and head orientation, suggesting that gaze, rather than place, is key to spatial navigation.

Key facts:

  1. Mice and rats use different strategies to explore their environment, which reflects their distinct ecological niches. Marmosets rely heavily on visual cues and minimize head movements while navigating.
  2. In the hippocampus regions of monkeys, the researchers observed selectivity for 3D viewing and head orientation, suggesting ‘gaze-based’ spatial mobility, in contrast to the ‘place-based’ navigation observed in rats.
  3. Unlike rats, marmosets lack rhythmic theta vibrations during locomotion. Instead, they show the resetting of theta oscillations triggered by head gaze shifts, which coincide with the activation of interneurons.

source: Neuroscience News

In a new study, scientists have discovered that the common monkey, a primate known for its unique daytime vision, navigates its world in an entirely different way than previously studied rats.

The research highlights the role of the hippocampus — often like the brain’s GPS — in spatial navigation.

In contrast to rats, sea monkeys use a visual exploration strategy while stationary and move towards targets by reducing head movements. They rely on rapid head-gaze turns to explore their environment, which is an interesting contrast to the mice’s low-speed head movements and whiskers’ tactile explorations.

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In contrast to rats, sea monkeys use a visual exploration strategy while stationary and move towards targets by reducing head movements. Credit: Neuroscience News

“We see that exploration and navigation strategies reflect the adaptation of each species to its ecological niche,” the researchers explained. “For the monkeys, reliance on visual cues is consistent with their normal behavior during the day.”

At the cellular level, the differences become more apparent. The CA3/CA1 hippocampal regions of Marmosets show selectivity for 3D view, head orientation, and location to a lesser extent.

This appears to relate to combinations of these variants, suggesting that monkeys primarily use staring for spatial navigation.

Unlike rats, monkeys lack the rhythmic theta vibrations of local field potentials during locomotion. Instead, they display a reset of theta oscillations caused by head gaze shifts.

This reset coincides with the activation of interneurons, followed by various alterations in pyramidal cell activity.

This difference in the locomotion of the young monkey from the rat model reflects the distal sensing abilities of the orangutan’s adaptations to day vision. The findings led the researchers to think of the marmoset hippocampus as a GPS system, with the “G” standing for stare.

Not only does this fascinating study open the door to a deeper understanding of spatial navigation across species, but it could also lead to advances in the study of human brain function and locomotion.

About this Neuroscience Research News

author: Neuroscience News Communications
source: Neuroscience News
communication: Neuroscience News Communications – Neuroscience News
picture: Image credited to Neuroscience News

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The hippocampus of the common orangutan monkey is GPS, but G is for gazeWritten by Diego B. Pisa et al. puresafe


a summary

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The hippocampus of the common orangutan monkey is GPS, but G is for gaze

The mammalian hippocampus has been compared to a global positioning system (GPS) that enables spatial navigation. This idea was mainly drawn from studies of nocturnal mammals, such as mice; which lack many adaptations to day vision compared to diurnal primates.

Here we show that while foraging in a 3D maze, the common monkey, a neotropical diurnal organism with pure stereoscopic color vision, predominantly uses rapid head-gaze shifts while stationary to visually explore its surroundings and then heads toward targets that minimize head movements. . On the other hand, mice move their head at low speeds while hopping to explore the environment using their whiskers.

These differences in exploration and navigation strategies reflect sensory adaptations of both species to their ecological environment. Putative pyramidal neurons in the monkey CA3/CA1 hippocampus show selectivity for 3D view and head orientation and less for spatiality, but mainly for combinations of these variables.

Inner inhibitory neurons are tuned to head angular velocity and 3D translational velocity, with most cells showing mixed selectivity for both variables.

Snails lack the rhythmic theta oscillations of local field potentials seen during locomotion in mice. Instead, they showed a resetting of theta oscillations triggered by head-gaze shifts that occurred concomitantly with the activation of interneurons, followed by various alterations in pyramidal cell activity.

Our results show that the marmoset’s visual exploration/navigation strategies and the hippocampal specializations that underpin them differ from those observed in mice, reflecting the distal sensing abilities of marmoset marmosets’ adaptations to daytime vision. Thus, the monkey’s hippocampus can be considered a GPS, but G is for staring.

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