Navigate the Unknown: Implications of Grid-Cells “Mental Travel” in Vicarious Trial and Error

  • Diogo Santos-PataEmail author
  • Riccardo Zucca
  • Paul F. M. J. Verschure
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 9793)


Rodents are able to navigate within dynamic environments by constantly adapting to their surroundings. Hippocampal place-cells encode the animals current location and fire in sequences during path planning events. Place-cells receive excitatory inputs from grid-cells whose metric system constitute a powerful mechanism for vector based navigation for both known and unexplored locations. However, neither the purpose or the behavioral consequences of such mechanism are fully understood. During early exploration of a maze with multiple discrimination points, rodents typically manifest a conflict-like behavior consisting of alternating head movements from one arm of the maze to the other be- fore making a choice, a behavior which is called vicarious trial and error (VTE). Here, we suggest that VTE is modulated by the learning process between spatial- and reward-tuned neuronal populations. We present a hippocampal model of place- and grid-cells for both space representation and mental travel that we used to control a robot solving a foraging task. We show that place-cells are able to represent the agents current location, whereas grid-cells encode the robots movement in space and project their activity over unexplored paths. Our results suggest a tight interaction between spatial and reward related neuronal activity in defining VTE behavior.


Biomimetics Navigation Grid-cells Mental travel VTE 



The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC grant agreement 341196; CDAC.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Diogo Santos-Pata
    • 1
    Email author
  • Riccardo Zucca
    • 1
  • Paul F. M. J. Verschure
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Universitat Pompeu Fabra, SPECS group, N-RASBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.ICREABarcelonaSpain

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