The head direction cell system is composed of multiple regions associated with the hippocampal formation. The dynamics of head direction tuning curves (HDTCs) were compared with those of hippocampal place fields. In both familiar and cue-altered environments, as a rat ran an increasing number of laps on a track, the center of mass (COM) of the HDTC tended to shift backward, similar to shifting observed in place cells. However, important differences existed between these cells in terms of the shift patterns relative to the cue-altered conditions, the proportion of backward versus forward shifts, and the time course of shift resetting. The demonstration of backward COM shifts in head direction cells and place cells suggests that similar plasticity mechanisms (such as temporally asymmetric LTP induction or spike timing-dependent plasticity) may be at work in both brain systems, and these processes may reflect a general mechanism for storing learned sequences of neural activity patterns.
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