BETHESDA, Md. (Oct. 3, 2005) It's often said that the key to Bill Bradley's basketball success was summed up in the title of the 1965 book by John McPhee, "A sense of where you are." Bradley always seemed to know where all nine other players were, where Bradley himself was in relation to the basket and where the open spot was to be found for his stylized jump shot.
"Navigation is a very interesting problem: It's very abstract and involves a high level of higher integrative, cognitive skills," noted Patricia E. Sharp, of Bowling Green State University. "And it turns out that the humble laboratory rat probably solves navigational problems about as well as we do," she adds.
Sharp and her collaborator Shawnda Turner-Williams measured the electrical firing of 51 individual cells in the medial mammillary nucleus of five rats' brains "to our knowledgethe first recordings from medial mammillary body cells in awake animals," according to their research paper.
The paper "Movement-related correlates of single cell activity in the medial mammillary nucleus of the rat during a pellet-chasing task," appears in the Journal of Neurophysiology, published by the American Physiological Society.
Cell firing rates indicate "unambiguous" left-right turning, correlate to speed
Sharp and Turner-Williams found that about one-third (17 of 51) of the cells "showed a significant, closely timed relationship to angular head motion" meaning that "the cell population rate vector provides an unambiguous indication of whether the movement trajectory is to the left or to the right," according to the paper. "In addition to these angular head velocity correlates, many (nearly 60%) of the cells were correlated with running speed. The majority of these showed a positive correlation, so that faster running was accompanied by higher firing rat