The chicken and egg problem of grid cells and place cells

Genela Morris, Dori Derdikman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Place cells and grid cells are major building blocks of the hippocampal cognitive map. The prominent forward model postulates that grid-cell modules are generated by a continuous attractor network; that a velocity signal evoked during locomotion moves entorhinal activity bumps; and that place-cell activity constitutes summation of entorhinal grid-cell modules. Experimental data support the first postulate, but not the latter two. Several families of solutions that depart from these postulates have been put forward. We suggest a modified model (spatial modulation continuous attractor network; SCAN), whereby place cells are generated from spatially selective nongrid cells. Locomotion causes these cells to move the hippocampal activity bump, leading to movement of the entorhinal manifolds. Such inversion accords with the shift of hippocampal thought from navigation to more abstract functions.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalTrends in Cognitive Sciences
Issue number2
Early online date24 Nov 2022
StatePublished - Feb 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Haggai Agmon and Yoram Burak for generously sharing the code from their 2020 paper [ 126 ] with us and allowing us to modify it. We thank Haggai Agmon, Yoram Gutfreund, and Gily Ginosar for reading and commenting on the manuscript. We thank Dafna Antes for illustrations. This work was supported by the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development ( GIF I-1477-421.13/2018 ), by a NIMH-BSF CRCNS grant ( BSF 2019807 ), by an Israel Science Foundation personal grant ( ISF 2183/21 ), by the Sisenwein fund , and by the Rappaport Research Institute .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Ltd


  • cognitive map
  • continuous attractor networks
  • entorhinal cortex
  • hippocampus
  • navigation
  • path integration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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