Social animals have to know the spatial positions of conspecifics. However, it is unknown how the position of others is represented in the brain. We designed a spatial observational-learning task, in which an observer bat mimicked a demonstrator bat while we recorded hippocampal dorsal-CA1 neurons from the observer bat. A neuronal subpopulation represented the position of the other bat, in allocentric coordinates. About half of these “social place-cells” represented also the observer’s own position—that is, were place cells. The representation of the demonstrator bat did not reflect self-movement or trajectory planning by the observer. Some neurons represented also the position of inanimate moving objects; however, their representation differed from the representation of the demonstrator bat. This suggests a role for hippocampal CA1 neurons in social-spatial cognition.
Year of publication
Science, Vol. 359, Issue 6372, pp. 218-224