Path integration is a general mechanism used by many animals to maintain an updated record of their position in relation to a set reference point.1–11 To do this, they continually integrate direction and distance information into a memorized home vector. What remains unclear is how this vector is stored, maintained, and utilized for successful navigation. A recent computational model based on the neuronal circuitry of the insect central complex suggests that home vector memories are encoded across a set of putative memory neurons and maintained through ongoing recurrent neural activity.12 To better understand the nature of the home vector memory and experimentally assess underlying mechanisms for maintaining it, we performed a series of experiments on the path integrating dung beetle Scarabaeus galenus.13 We found that, while the directional component of the home vector was maintained for up to 1 h, the distance component of the vector memory decreased gradually over time. Using cold-induced anesthesia, we disrupted the neural activity of beetles that had stored a home vector of known length and direction. This treatment diminished both components of the home vector memory, but by different amounts—the homing beetles lost their distance memory before their directional memory. Together, these findings present new insights into the functional properties of home vector memories and provide the first empirical evidence that a biological process that can be disrupted by cold-induced anesthesia is essential to support homing by path integration.
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- Bioinformatik (beräkningsbiologi)