A neural wayfinding mechanism adjusts for ambigous landmark information
SourceNeuroImage, 52, 1, (2010), pp. 364-370
Article / Letter to editor
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SubjectLearning and Plasticity
Objects along a route can serve as crucial landmarks that facilitate successful navigation. Previous functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) evidence indicated that the human parahippocampal gyrus automatically distinguishes between objects placed at navigationally relevant (decision points) and irrelevant locations (non-decision points). This storage of relevant objects can provide a neural mechanism underlying successful navigation. However, only objects that actually support wayfinding need to be stored. Objects can also provide misleading information if similar objects appear at different locations along a route. An efficient mechanism needs to specifically adjust for ambiguous landmark information. We investigated this by placing identical objects twice in a virtual labyrinth at places with the same as well as with a different navigational relevance. Twenty right-handed volunteers moved through a virtual maze. They viewed the same object either at two different decision points, at two different non-decision points, or at a decision as well as at a non-decision point. Afterwards, event-related fMRI data were acquired during object recognition. Participants decided whether they had seen the objects in the maze or not. The results showed that activity in the parahippocampal gyrus was increased for objects placed at a decision and at a non-decision point as compared to objects placed at two non-decision points. However, ambiguous information resulting from the same object placed at two different decision points revealed increased activity in the right middle frontal gyrus. These findings suggest a neural wayfinding mechanism that differentiates between helpful and misleading information.
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