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Selective neural representation of objects relevant for navigation


As people find their way through their environment, objects at navigationally relevant locations can serve as crucial landmarks. The parahippocampal gyrus has previously been shown to be involved in object and scene recognition. In the present study, we investigated the neural representation of navigationally relevant locations. Healthy human adults viewed a route through a virtual museum with objects placed at intersections (decision points) or at simple turns (non-decision points). Event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data were acquired during subsequent recognition of the objects in isolation. Neural activity in the parahippocampal gyrus reflected the navigational relevance of an object's location in the museum. Parahippocampal responses were selectively increased for objects that occurred at decision points, independent of attentional demands. This increase occurred for forgotten as well as remembered objects, showing implicit retrieval of navigational information. The automatic storage of relevant object location in the parahippocampal gyrus provides a part of the neural mechanism underlying successful navigation.

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Figure 1: Virtual museum and recognition task.
Figure 2: Toys compared to non-toys.
Figure 3: Decision-point versus non-decision-point objects.
Figure 4: Remembered and forgotten objects.


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We thank G. Fernández, P. Hagoort and M. Coles for helpful discussions and their comments on the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Gabriele Janzen.

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Janzen, G., van Turennout, M. Selective neural representation of objects relevant for navigation. Nat Neurosci 7, 673–677 (2004).

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