The term “egocentric” has nothing to do with Freud or selfishness. It’s a geometric term meaning that part of the self is the center of the spatial coordinate frame (“ego” = self). The contrasting term, “allocentric” means something other than the self is the center of the coordinate frame (“allo”= other). A comparison has helped me: think of geocentric and heliocentric models of the solar system.
The question I’m going to address is whether our brains, our perception of the world, our behavior, and our consciousness operate in egocentric or allocentric coordinate frames.
David Marr was a brilliant Neuroscientist who died too young, in 1980, at the age of 35. Marr’s work was theoretical — he was at the leading edge of a computational wave.* Marr’s contributions spanned many areas of Neuroscience: cerebellum, hippocampus, and especially vision. Marr is also well known for proposing that brain/behavior function should be approached in three phases that are largely sequential:
- The computational level: what is the problem that confronts the animal?
- The algorithmic level: How is it logically solved? (including shortcuts)
- The implementation level: How does the brain do it?
A fanciful depiction of how a grid cell based navigation system could compute a direct path across unvisited regions of space.
A week ago Stensola et al published evidence that Entorhinal Grid Cells are modular, and on the same day I wrote a glowing commentary, The Significance of the Modular Organization of Grid Cells. In addition to praising the paper, I tried to explain why evidence for modular organization was welcome news, in that it supported computational mechanisms that grid cells could perform. In the rest of this post I outline a model Andre Fenton and I have been working on that relies on discrete modules of grid cells. Our model extracts a function we call linear look-ahead and uses this function for efficient navigation. We feel it represents the begining of a process of explaining high order cognitive functions at the neuron network level Continue reading
Enthusiastic and Excited response to the publication of “The entorhinal grid map is discretized” (Stensola, et al, Nature, 492, 72-78; 2012)
The hippocampal formation is an amazing place, populated by strange characters called place cells, head-direction cells and grid cells. Hippocampal place cells exhibit “location-specific firing” (see figure). A single place cell will “fire” only when the rat crosses a restricted region of space. The figure below is an overhead-view map of the firing of a single place cell averaged over a 16-minute recording session (the animal was in a cylindrical enclosure; that’s why the map is round). John O;Keefe, followed by many others, has suggested that the collective firing of hippocampal place cells forms the rat’s “cognitive map”, and permits efficient navigation.