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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2014 Jan 6;369(1636):20130045. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2013.0045. Print 2014.

Do we have an internal model of the outside world?

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School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex, , Brighton BN1 9QG, UK.


Our phenomenal world remains stationary in spite of movements of the eyes, head and body. In addition, we can point or turn to objects in the surroundings whether or not they are in the field of view. In this review, I argue that these two features of experience and behaviour are related. The ability to interact with objects we cannot see implies an internal memory model of the surroundings, available to the motor system. And, because we maintain this ability when we move around, the model must be updated, so that the locations of object memories change continuously to provide accurate directional information. The model thus contains an internal representation of both the surroundings and the motions of the head and body: in other words, a stable representation of space. Recent functional MRI studies have provided strong evidence that this egocentric representation has a location in the precuneus, on the medial surface of the superior parietal cortex. This is a region previously identified with 'self-centred mental imagery', so it seems likely that the stable egocentric representation, required by the motor system, is also the source of our conscious percept of a stable world.


egocentric memory; precuneus; spatial updating; visual stability

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