Spinning in the Scanner: Neural Correlates of Virtual Reorientation

Department of Psychology, Brescia University College, 1285 Western Road, London, Ontario, Canada.
Journal of Experimental Psychology Learning Memory and Cognition (Impact Factor: 2.86). 09/2010; 36(5):1097-107. DOI: 10.1037/a0019938
Source: PubMed


Recent studies have used spatial reorientation task paradigms to identify underlying cognitive mechanisms of navigation in children, adults, and a range of animal species. Despite broad interest in this task across disciplines, little is known about the brain bases of reorientation. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to examine neural activity in adults during a virtual reality version of the reorientation task. Three environments that varied in the cues provided were studied: a rectangular room with 4 identical gray walls (Geometry), a square room with 3 gray walls and 1 red wall (Feature), and a rectangular room with 3 gray walls and 1 red wall (Feature + Geometry). Multiple areas within the medial temporal lobe (MTL) showed increased activation when a feature was present compared with when reorientation was based only on geometric cues. In contrast, reliance on geometric cues significantly activated a number of non-MTL structures, including the prefrontal cortex and inferior temporal gyrus. These results provide neural evidence for processing differences between the 2 types of cue as well as insight into developmental and comparative aspects of reorientation.

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    • "It is possible that people with WS also combine features with spatial information (perhaps geometric structure) rather automatically . However, people with WS show hippocampal abnormalities (Meyer-Lindenberg et al., 2005, 2006; Reiss et al., 2000) and research suggests that this structure is involved in the combination of features and geometry during reorientation (Sutton et al., 2010). Thus, it seems possible that the two kinds of information may be less automatically combined in this population, especially if the two systems are functionally more separate than is typically the case. "
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    ABSTRACT: Spatial reorientation by humans and other animals engages geometric representations of surface layouts as well as featural landmarks; however, the two types of information are thought to be behaviorally and neurally separable. In this paper, we examine the use of these two types of information during reorientation among children and adults with Williams syndrome (WS), a genetic disorder accompanied by abnormalities in brain regions that support use of both geometry and landmarks. Previous studies of reorientation in adolescents and adults with WS have shown deficits in the ability to use geometry for reorientation, but intact ability to use features, suggesting that the two systems can be differentially impaired by genetic disorder. Using a slightly modified layout, we found that many WS participants could use geometry, and most could use features along with geometry. However, the developmental trajectories for the two systems were quite different from one other, and different from those found in typical development. Purely geometric responding was not correlated with age in WS, and search processes appeared similar to those in typically developing (TD) children. In contrast, use of features in combination with geometry was correlated with age in WS, and search processes were distinctly different from TD children. The results support the view that use of geometry and features stem from different underlying mechanisms, that the developmental trajectories and operation of each are altered in WS, and that combination of information from the two systems is atypical. Given brain abnormalities in regions supporting the two kinds of information, our findings suggest that the co-operation of the two systems is functionally altered in this genetic syndrome. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2015 · Cognition
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    • "riented , so it would be difficult to draw conclu - sions regarding brain regions involved in reorientation per se ( Sutton et al . , 2010 ) . Yet , in virtual reorientation studies , signif - icantly greater hippocampal activation following disorientation was found in conditions where a non - geometric feature ( i . e . , red wall ) was present ( Sutton et al . , 2010 , 2012 ) . The disparity in these findings implies the use of different neuropsychological mechanisms in reorienting . As such , virtual reorientation studies highlight the specific importance of the hippocampus in spatial reorientation . In sum , it appears that the hippocampus plays a sig - nificant role in remembering the locations of"
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    ABSTRACT: Spatial navigation is an adaptive skill that involves determining the route to a particular goal or location, and then travelling that path. A major component of spatial navigation is spatial reorientation, or the ability to reestablish a sense of direction after being disoriented. The hippocampus is known to be critical for navigating, and has more recently been implicated in reorienting in adults, but relatively little is known about the development of the hippocampus in relation to these large-scale spatial abilities in children. It has been established that, compared to school-aged children, preschool children tend to perform poorly on certain spatial reorientation tasks, suggesting that their hippocampi may not be mature enough to process the demands of such a task. Currently, common techniques used to examine underlying brain activity, such as electroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), are not suitable for examining hippocampal development in young children. In the present paper, we argue for the use of eyeblink conditioning (EBC), a relatively under-utilized, inexpensive, and safe method that is easy to implement in developing populations. In addition, EBC has a well defined neural circuitry, which includes the hippocampus, making it an ideal tool to indirectly measure hippocampal functioning in young children. In this review, we will evaluate the literature on EBC and its relation to hippocampal development, and discuss the possibility of using EBC as an objective measure of associative learning in relation to large-scale spatial skills. We support the use of EBC as a way to indirectly access hippocampal function in typical and atypical populations in order to characterize the neural substrates associated with the development of spatial reorientation abilities in early childhood. Thus, we advocate for EBC as a simple biomarker for success in various tasks that require the hippocampus, including spatial reorientation.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · Frontiers in Psychology
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    • "This work reveals an important role for the hippocampus in reorienting, but one different in kind than previously thought. Sutton et al. (2010) had subjects actively move around a virtual room and encode the location of a traffic pylon in one of the corners in an encoding phase. Next, the screen was darkened for a few seconds and when the screen was re-illuminated, subjects were located in a randomly determined corner of the room and had to go to the center of the room, pick up a pylon, and place it in the location they had seen it in the encoding phase. "
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    ABSTRACT: The hippocampus has long been known to play a role in allocentric spatial coding, but its specific involvement in reorientation, or the recalibration of a disrupted egocentric spatial representation using allocentric spatial information, has received less attention. Initially, the cognitive literature on reorientation focused on a "geometric module" sensitive to the shape formed by extended surfaces in the environment, and the neuroscience literature followed with proposals that particular MTL regions might be the seat of such a module. However, with behavioral evidence mounting that a modular cognitive architecture is unlikely, recent work has begun to directly address the issue of the neural underpinnings of reorientation. In this review, we describe the reorientation paradigm, initial proposals for the role of the MTL when people reorient, our recent work on the neural bases of reorientation, and finally, how this new information regarding neural mechanism helps to re-interpret and clarify the original behavioral reorientation data.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2014 · Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
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