Social animals have to know the spatial positions of conspecifics. However, it is unknown how the position of others is represented in the brain. We designed a spatial observational-learning task, in which an observer bat mimicked a demonstrator bat while we recorded hippocampal dorsal-CA1 neurons from the observer bat. A neuronal subpopulation represented the position of the other bat, in allocentric coordinates. About half of these "social place-cells" represented also the observer's own position-that is, were place cells. The representation of the demonstrator bat did not reflect self-movement or trajectory planning by the observer. Some neurons represented also the position of inanimate moving objects; however, their representation differed from the representation of the demonstrator bat. This suggests a role for hippocampal CA1 neurons in social-spatial cognition.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank K. Haroush, S. Romani, O. Forkosh, A. Rubin, M. Geva-Sagiv, A. Finkelstein, T. Eliav, G. Ginosar, A. Sarel, and D. Blum for comments on the manuscript; S. Kaufman, O. Gobi, and S. Futerman for bat training; A. Tuval for veterinary support; C. Ra’anan and R. Eilam for histology; B. Pasmantirer and G. Ankaoua for mechanical designs; and G. Brodsky for graphics. This study was supported by research grants to N.U. from the European Research Council (ERC-CoG–NATURAL_BAT_NAV), Israel Science Foundation (ISF 1319/13), and Minerva Foundation. The data are archived on the Weizmann Institute of Science servers and will be made available on request.