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Internal Brain Maps

February 9, 2015

To find their way around, animals have specialized neurons that fire in response to specific locations in the environment.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

The brain’s internal maps. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update. The hippocampus region of the brain has special neurons called place cells that allow animals to navigate their surroundings. Each specific location causes a different place cell to fire as the animal moves around, creating an internal map. In the journal Science, New York University neuroscientist Gyorgy Buzsáki reports that while some of these brain cells treat each new place as completely novel, other neurons fire to indicate similarities with previous environments.

GYORGY BUZSÁKI (New York University):

The majority of the neurons say “I’m in a different environment, I’m in a different environment”, and so on, but the minority says “I am in the same environment”. But the important thing is that the two of them are always together.

HIRSHON:

And together, the two sets of neurons help animals navigate both familiar and unfamiliar environments. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.