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Spatial Memory in Mice

Abstract: Every few generations, a monarch butterfly performs an extraordinary behavioral feat by traveling up to thousands of miles to the same ancestral overwinter sanctuaries. This astonishing migration of a tiny butterfly highlights an extreme form of what animals perform at a local scale every day: spatial navigation through an environment. For more than a century, scientists have questioned how the brain represents and supports purposeful movement through external space. Even as early as 1874, Darwin hypothesized that animals may rely on the presence of an inertia based navigation system. However, it was the discovery in 2004 and 2005 of medial entorhinal grid cells that provided one of the biggest breakthroughs in understanding the neural basis of spatial representation (Fyhn et al., 2004; Hafting et al., 2005). Grid cells are neurons in rodents that fire in repeating spatial locations to form a hexagonal pattern of activity covering the entire environment (Figure 1A). The strict periodicity of this pattern may enable a metric representation of the animalís own location, similar to a longitude and latitude coordinate system (Hafting et al., 2005; McNaughton et al., 2006). Researchers from biology to mathematics have become fascinated with grid cells and their ability to maintain a rigid periodic spatial firing pattern despite frequent variation in the animalís running speed and direction. I will present data on the elegant mathematical structure of grid features and experimental work on the mechanisms that may underlie the crystalline structure characteristic of grid cells.
Speaker: Lisa Giocomo - Stanford University School of Medicine, Neurobiology
Speaker Bio: Lisa M Giocomo worked with Dr. Michael Hasselmo for her graduate studies and received her PhD in Neuroscience from Boston University in 2008. She was then a postdoctoral fellow with Edvard and May-Britt Moser at the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology from 2009-2012. For her postdoctoral studies, she received a Marie Curie Incoming International Fellowship, a Human Frontier Science Program Fellowship and a Research Council of Norway Fellowship. In 2013, she started as an Assistant Professor of Neurobiology at Stanford University School of Medicine. Her lab integrates electrophysiology, behavior, gene manipulations, optogenetics and computational modeling to study how single-cell biophysics and network dynamics interact to mediate spatial memory and navigation. Lisa serves as an advisor as part of the Allen Institute for Brain Science Next Generation Leaders and was named a Gabilan Fellow at Stanford University in 2013. She received the Peter and Patricia Gruber International Research Award in 2012, was named a Sloan Research Fellow in 2013 and received a Klingenstein-Simons Fellowship in 2014.
Poster Link: Poster