Olfactory landmarks and path integration converge to form a cognitive spatial map


The convergence of internal path integration and external sensory landmarks generates a cognitive spatial map in the hippocampus. We studied how localized odor cues are recognized as landmarks by recording the activity of neurons in CA1 during a virtual navigation task. We found that odor cues enriched place cell representations, dramatically improving navigation. Presentation of the same odor at different locations generated distinct place cell representations. An odor cue at a proximal location enhanced the local place cell density and also led to the formation of place cells beyond the cue. This resulted in the recognition of a second, more distal odor cue as a distinct landmark, suggesting an iterative mechanism for extending spatial representations into unknown territory. Our results establish that odors can serve as landmarks, moti- vating a model in which path integration and odor landmarks interact sequentially and iteratively to generate cognitive spatial maps over long distances.