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Head direction cells fire to signal the direction in which an animal's head is pointing. They are able to track head direction using only internally-derived information (path integration)In this simulation study we investigate the factors that affect path integration accuracy. Specifically, two major limiting factors are identified: rise time, the time after stimulation it takes for a neuron to start firing, and the presence of symmetric non-offset within-layer recurrent collateral connectivity. On the basis of the latter, the important prediction is made that head direction cell regions directly involved in path integration will not contain this type of connectivity; giving a theoretical explanation for architectural observations. Increased neuronal rise time is found to slow path integration, and the slowing effect for a given rise time is found to be more severe in the context of short conduction delays. Further work is suggested on the basis of our findings, which represent a valuable contribution to understanding of the head direction cell system.

Original publication




Journal article


Front Comput Neurosci

Publication Date





attractor dynamics, continuous attractor neural networks, head direction cells, path integration, spatial cognition