The brain has a number of “modules” dedicated to self-location, they found. Each module contains its own internal GPS-like mapping system that keeps track of movement, and has other characteristics that also distinguish one motion from another.
“We have at least four senses of location,” says Edvard Moser, director of the Kavli Institute. “Each has its own scale for representing the external environment, ranging from very fine to very coarse.
“The different modules react differently to changes in the environment. Some may scale the brain’s inner map to the surroundings, others do not. And they operate independently of each other in several ways.”
This is also the first time that researchers have been able to show that a part of the brain that does not directly respond to sensory input, called the association cortex, is organized into modules. The research was conducted using rats.