A cortical representation of the local visual environment.
ABSTRACT Medial temporal brain regions such as the hippocampal formation and parahippocampal cortex have been generally implicated in navigation and visual memory. However, the specific function of each of these regions is not yet clear. Here we present evidence that a particular area within human parahippocampal cortex is involved in a critical component of navigation: perceiving the local visual environment. This region, which we name the 'parahippocampal place area' (PPA), responds selectively and automatically in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to passively viewed scenes, but only weakly to single objects and not at all to faces. The critical factor for this activation appears to be the presence in the stimulus of information about the layout of local space. The response in the PPA to scenes with spatial layout but no discrete objects (empty rooms) is as strong as the response to complex meaningful scenes containing multiple objects (the same rooms furnished) and over twice as strong as the response to arrays of multiple objects without three-dimensional spatial context (the furniture from these rooms on a blank background). This response is reduced if the surfaces in the scene are rearranged so that they no longer define a coherent space. We propose that the PPA represents places by encoding the geometry of the local environment.
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ABSTRACT: Neurons sensitive to both place and direction from distinct regions of the hippocampal formation, allometric relationships between spatial learning and hippocampal structure and pronounced impairments in spatial learning after lesions in this area, indicate that the hippocampal formation subserves allocentric spatial learning. To learn more about the process of spatial representation, we have developed a task that provides independent control of both landmark and directional cues. On the basis of physiological and behavioural work, this task also makes it possible to investigate the relevance of associative learning principles, such as predictability, to the spatial domain. We report here that although rats learn to discriminate between landmarks on the basis of their proximity to a reliably predicted food reward, they will only learn to use them to represent its location if they maintain stable locations within a geometric frame of reference.Nature 03/1993; 361(6413):631-3. · 38.60 Impact Factor
- 01/1990; The MIT Press.
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ABSTRACT: Functional imaging to date has examined the neural basis of knowledge of spatial layouts of large-scale environments typically in the context of episodic memory with specific spatiotemporal references. Much human behavior, however, takes place in very familiar environments in which knowledge of spatial layouts has entered the domain of general facts often referred to as semantic memory. In this study, positron emission tomography (PET) was used to examine the neural substrates of topographical memory retrieval in licensed London taxi drivers of many years experience while they recalled complex routes around the city. Compared with baseline and other nontopographical memory tasks, this resulted in activation of a network of brain regions, including the right hippocampus. Recall of famous landmarks for which subjects had no knowledge of their location within a spatial framework activated similar regions, except for the right hippocampus. This suggests that the hippocampus is involved in the processing of spatial layouts established over long time courses. The involvement of similar brain areas in routes and landmarks memory indicates that the topographical memory system may be primed to respond to any relevant topographical stimulation; however, the right hippocampus is recruited specifically for navigation in large-scale spatial environments. In contrast, nontopographical semantic memory retrieval involved the left inferior frontal gyrus, with no change in activity in medial temporal regions.Journal of Neuroscience 10/1997; 17(18):7103-10. · 6.91 Impact Factor