How does our brain help us move around? We know that a bean-sized structure called the hippocampus (here pictured in rat brain) holds the key. The hippocampus processes large amounts of incoming information and transmits signals to other brain regions. Information flow is moderated by a group of receptors for a neurotransmitter called glutamate. Scientists have long believed this group of receptors (in the hippocampus) to underly the mammalian brain’s ability to learn about spatial associations. However, experiments in rodents recently revealed animals without the receptors perform equally well at simple navigation tasks when compared with normal animals. Furthermore they remember what was learned. However, when faced with a more complex navigation task, receptor-less rodents were apparently confuddled when presented with a choice of options. The researchers argue that these receptors help mammals to perform a decision-making role in the event of conflicts.
Written by Brona McVittie
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