The human parahippocampal cortex subserves egocentric spatial learning during navigation in a virtual maze.
Weniger, G., Siemerkus, J., Schmidt-Samoa, C., Mehlitz, M., Baudewig, J., Dechent, P., Irle, E. – 2010
BACKGROUND: Present evidence suggests that the hippocampus (HC) and the parahippocampal cortex (PHC) are involved in allocentric (world-centered) spatial memory. However, the putative role of the PHC in egocentric (body-centered) spatial learning has received only limited systematic investigation. METHODS: To examine the role of the PHC in egocentric learning, 19 healthy volunteers learned to find their way in a virtual maze during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The virtual maze presented a first-person view, lacked any topographical landmarks and could be learned only using egocentric navigation strategies. RESULTS: During learning, increased medial temporal lobe activity was observed in the PHC bilaterally. Activity was also observed in cortical areas known to project to the PHC and proposed to contribute to egocentric spatial navigation and memory. CONCLUSIONS: Our results point to a role of the PHC for the representation and storage of egocentric information. It seems possible that the PHC contributes to egocentric memory by its feedback projections to the posterior parietal cortex. Moreover, access to allocentric and egocentric streams of spatial information may enable the PHC to construct a global and comprehensive representation of spatial environments and to promote the construction of stable cognitive maps by translating between egocentric and allocentric frames of memory.