Are grid cells used for navigation? On local metrics, subjective spaces, and black holes

Gily Ginosar, Johnatan Aljadeff, Liora Las, Dori Derdikman, Nachum Ulanovsky

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The symmetric, lattice-like spatial pattern of grid-cell activity is thought to provide a neuronal global metric for space. This view is compatible with grid cells recorded in empty boxes but inconsistent with data from more naturalistic settings. We review evidence arguing against the global-metric notion, including the distortion and disintegration of the grid pattern in complex and three-dimensional environments. We argue that deviations from lattice symmetry are key for understanding grid-cell function. We propose three possible functions for grid cells, which treat real-world grid distortions as a feature rather than a bug. First, grid cells may constitute a local metric for proximal space rather than a global metric for all space. Second, grid cells could form a metric for subjective action-relevant space rather than physical space. Third, distortions may represent salient locations. Finally, we discuss mechanisms that can underlie these functions. These ideas may transform our thinking about grid cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1858-1875
Number of pages18
Issue number12
StatePublished - 21 Jun 2023


  • Benchmarking
  • Entorhinal Cortex/physiology
  • Grid Cells/physiology
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons/physiology
  • Space Perception/physiology
  • Spatial Navigation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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