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Neuroimage. 2012 Apr 2;60(2):1316-30. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2012.01.046. Epub 2012 Jan 14.

Cooperative interactions between hippocampal and striatal systems support flexible navigation.

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Psychology Department, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Research in animals and humans has demonstrated that the hippocampus is critical for retrieving distinct representations of overlapping sequences of information. There is recent evidence that the caudate nucleus and orbitofrontal cortex are also involved in disambiguation of overlapping spatial representations. The hippocampus and caudate are functionally distinct regions, but both have anatomical links with the orbitofrontal cortex. The present study used an fMRI-based functional connectivity analysis in humans to examine the functional relationship between the hippocampus, caudate, and orbitofrontal cortex when participants use contextual information to navigate well-learned spatial routes which share common elements. Participants were trained outside the scanner to navigate virtual mazes from a first-person perspective. Overlapping condition mazes began and ended at distinct locations, but converged in the middle to share some hallways with another maze. Non-overlapping condition mazes did not share any hallways with any other maze. Successful navigation through the overlapping hallways required contextual information identifying the current navigational route to guide the appropriate response for a given trial. Results revealed greater functional connectivity between the hippocampus, caudate, and orbitofrontal cortex for overlapping mazes compared to non-overlapping mazes. The current findings suggest that the hippocampus and caudate interact with prefrontal structures cooperatively for successful contextually dependent navigation.

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