Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
We investigated 1) how objects come to serve as landmarks in spatial memory and more specifically how they form part of an allocentric cognitive map and 2) how humans encode multiple connected spatial environments. In both sets of experiments, participants performing a virtual driving task incidentally learned the layout of a town and locations of objects or stores in that town. Their spatial memory and recognition memory for the objects or stores were subsequently tested. To assess whether the objects were encoded allocentrically, we developed a new measurement, pointing consistency. We found that when participants had more limited experience of the environment spatial memory for objects at navigationally relevant locations was more consistent across tested viewpoints than for objects at navigationally less relevant locations. When participants’ attention was focused on the appearance of objects, the navigational relevance effect was eliminated, whereas when their attention was focused on the objects’ locations, this effect was enhanced, supporting the hypothesis that when objects are processed in the service of navigation, rather than merely being viewed as objects, they engage qualitatively distinct attentional systems and are incorporated into an allocentric spatial representation. The results were consistent with evidence from the neuroimaging literature that when objects are relevant to navigation, they not only engage the ventral “object processing stream”, but also the dorsal stream and medial temporal lobe memory system classically associated with allocentric spatial memory. Moreover, in the connected environments, our data were more consistent with the formation of local maps, regardless of whether the neighborhoods were learned together or separately. Only when all visible distinctions between neighborhoods were removed did people behave as if they formed one integrated map. These data are broadly consistent with evidence from rodent hippocampal place cell recordings in connected boxes, and with hierarchical models of spatial coding.
Han, Xue, "SPATIAL MEMORY AND NAVIGATION IN HUMANS" (2012). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 7242.
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