Spatial cognition in naturalistic environments, for freely moving animals, may pose quite different constraints from that studied in artificial laboratory settings. Hippocampal place cells indeed look quite different, but almost nothing is known about entorhinal cortex grid cells, in the wild. Simulating our self-organizing adaptation model of grid cell pattern formation, we consider a virtual rat randomly exploring a virtual burrow, with feedforward connectivity from place to grid units and recurrent connectivity between grid units. The virtual burrow was based on those observed by John B. Calhoun, including several chambers and tunnels. Our results indicate that lateral connectivity between grid units may enhance their “gridness” within a limited strength range, but the overall effect of the irregular geometry is to disable long-range and obstruct short-range order. What appears as a smooth continuous attractor in a flat box, kept rigid by recurrent connections, turns into an incoherent motley of unit clusters, flexible or outright unstable.
Part of the book: Hippocampus