During locomotion, mammals update their position with respect to a fixed point of reference, such as their point of departure, by processing inertial cues, proprioceptive feedback and stored motor commands generated during locomotion. This so-called path integration system (dead reckoning) allows the animal to return to its home, or to a familiar feeding place, even when external cues are absent or novel. However, without the use of external cues, the path integration process leads to rapid accumulation of errors involving both the direction and distance of the goal. Therefore, even nocturnal species such as hamsters and mice rely more on previously learned visual references than on the path integration system when the two types of information are in conflict. Recent studies investigate the extent to which path integration and familiar visual cues cooperate to optimize the navigational performance.

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