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Because #bats are successful in #acrobatic #aerial maneuvering, it seems likely that their #brains have dedicated #3D #navigation #circuits. One component would be #neurons representing the orientation of the head in space. Researchers have found such neurons, which is technically impressive (because it requires concurrently recording from bat neurons while they fly freely in space, and tracking the bats’ position and orientation), and illuminating, because the researchers find that the neurons probably encode heading direction on a #toroidal #manifold (a #donut) rather than a #spherical one (a ball). The difference between the two is that the toroidal #representation allows for independent encoding of #pitch and #azimuth, while a spherical representation requires that they’re tied together. The authors of this work cleverly dissociated between the two by comparing neuronal activity when the bats were inverted versus upright, a key body transformation that would necessarily shift the activity of neurons encoding head azimuth in toroidal but not in spherical #coordinates. #science #neuroscience #nature http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v517/n7533/full/nature14031.html

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