Encoding and retrieval of landmark-related spatial cues during navigation: An fMRI study
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SourceHippocampus, 24, 7, (2014), pp. 853-868
Article / Letter to editor
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PI Group Motivational & Cognitive Control
SW OZ BSI KLP
PI Group Memory and Emotion
SW OZ BSI OLO
Subject110 000 Neurocognition of Language; 111 000 Intention & Action; 130 000 Cognitive Neurology & Memory; 230 Affective Neuroscience; Experimental Psychopathology and Treatment; Learning and Plasticity
To successfully navigate, humans can use different cues from their surroundings. Learning locations in an environment can be supported by parallel subsystems in the hippocampus and the striatum. We used fMRI to look at differences in the use of object-related spatial cues while 47 participants actively navigated in an open-field virtual environment. In each trial, participants navigated toward a target object. During encoding, three positional cues (columns) with directional cues (shadows) were available. During retrieval, the removed target had to be replaced while either two objects without shadows (objects trial) or one object with a shadow (shadow trial) were available. Participants were informed in blocks about which type of retrieval trial was most likely to occur, thereby modulating expectations of having to rely on a single landmark or on a configuration of landmarks. How the spatial learning systems in the hippocampus and caudate nucleus were involved in these landmark-based encoding and retrieval processes were investigated. Landmark configurations can create a geometry similar to boundaries in an environment. It was found that the hippocampus was involved in encoding when relying on configurations of landmarks, whereas the caudate nucleus was involved in encoding when relying on single landmarks. This might suggest that the observed hippocampal activation for configurations of objects is linked to a spatial representation observed with environmental boundaries. Retrieval based on configurations of landmarks activated regions associated with the spatial updation of object locations for reorientation. When only a single landmark was available during retrieval, regions associated with updating the location of oneself were activated. There was also evidence that good between-participant performance was predicted by right hippocampal activation. This study therefore sheds light on how the brain deals with changing demands on spatial processing related purely to landmarks.
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