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Curr Biol. 2014 Jun 16;24(12):1331-40. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.05.001. Epub 2014 Jun 5.

The hippocampus and entorhinal cortex encode the path and Euclidean distances to goals during navigation.

Author information

1
UCL Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience, Research Department of Experimental Psychology, Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, University College London, London WC1H 0AP, UK; Aging & Cognition Research Group, German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), 39120 Magdeburg, Germany.
2
UCL Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience, Research Department of Experimental Psychology, Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, University College London, London WC1H 0AP, UK.
3
UCL Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging, University College London, London WC1E 6DD, UK.
4
School of Psychology & Neuroscience, University of St. Andrews, Fife KY16 9JP, UK.
5
Department of Psychology, University of Hertfordshire, Hertfordshire AL10 9AB, UK.
6
UCL Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience, Research Department of Experimental Psychology, Division of Psychology and Language Sciences, University College London, London WC1H 0AP, UK. Electronic address: h.spiers@ucl.ac.uk.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Despite decades of research on spatial memory, we know surprisingly little about how the brain guides navigation to goals. While some models argue that vectors are represented for navigational guidance, other models postulate that the future path is computed. Although the hippocampal formation has been implicated in processing spatial goal information, it remains unclear whether this region processes path- or vector-related information.

RESULTS:

We report neuroimaging data collected from subjects navigating London's Soho district; these data reveal that both the path distance and the Euclidean distance to the goal are encoded by the medial temporal lobe during navigation. While activity in the posterior hippocampus was sensitive to the distance along the path, activity in the entorhinal cortex was correlated with the Euclidean distance component of a vector to the goal. During travel periods, posterior hippocampal activity increased as the path to the goal became longer, but at decision points, activity in this region increased as the path to the goal became closer and more direct. Importantly, sensitivity to the distance was abolished in these brain areas when travel was guided by external cues.

CONCLUSIONS:

The results indicate that the hippocampal formation contains representations of both the Euclidean distance and the path distance to goals during navigation. These findings argue that the hippocampal formation houses a flexible guidance system that changes how it represents distance to the goal depending on the fluctuating demands of navigation.

PMID:
24909328
PMCID:
PMC4062938
DOI:
10.1016/j.cub.2014.05.001
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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