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Abstract

Path integration is the animal's running computation of its position relative to a starting point based on recording all displacements. This process is known to be prone to cumulative errors and hence must somehow be corrected with the help of local spatial cues. In the reported experiments, the relative role of local spatial cues at two target locations was appraised. These two targets were the peripheral box of a female house mouse (Mus musculus) and a central box from where she retrieved her pups over a distance of 50 cm. The experimental conditions required the mouse to navigate between the two targets solely by means of path integration. To find out whether the mice continued integrating at the two target locations, directional misinformation was fed into their path integrating system. Hence, passive rotation of 90° proved to be sufficient to decide unambiguously whether the mice were misdirected. Such experimental interference consistently documented ongoing path integration at the target location outside the residential nest. In contrast, the same interference when the mouse was in the residential nest documented discontinuation of path integration in most cases. It is inferred that mice, when departing from residential nests, initially direct themselves by means of local guiding stimuli.