There are few circumstances more fundamental to our existence in the fact that we are creatures that move through space. Almost all of the behaviors are essential to our survival - locating food, finding a mate, and avoiding predators - require navigation through the external world. A half-century of research suggests that humans and animals use cognitive """"""""maps"""""""" of the large-scale spatial structure of the world to facilitate this ability. Much of the information used to form these maps is initially acquired from vision. But this presents a puzzle: how do we transform visuospatial information initially acquired from specific views and specific instances into a viewpoint-invariant representation of environmental space that can be used for navigational planning? The research proposed here will use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to address this question. On the basis of previous work, we hypothesize that the human brain supports at least three distinct hierarchical levels of spatial representation: (1) it represents the locations of objects and surfaces relative to various body parts such as the eye and hand (body-space);(2) it represents the relationship between the trunk of the body and a coordinate frame anchored on the set of immovable surfaces that defines the local scene (scene-space);(3) it represents the the location and orientation of the observer within the larger environment, including relative to locations that are currently """"""""over the horizon"""""""" (world-space). The first part of the proposed research will examine scene-space representations in parahippocampal and retrosplenial cortices with particular emphasis on uncovering the mechanisms by which these representations are learned from experience and change over time. The second part of the proposed research will examine the neural mechanisms involved in representing body-space and will functionally distinguish these mechanisms from those involved in representing scene-space. The third part of the proposed research will examine the neural mechanisms involved in representing world-space. Although this research does not examine spatial processing in nonsighted individuals, the results obtained will help us to distinguislvbetween processes that are inextricably tied to vision and those that are relatively amodal. As such, this knowledge could be critical for development of rehabilitation strategies in the blind.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Eye Institute (NEI)
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Cognition and Perception Study Section (CP)
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Steinmetz, Michael A
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University of Pennsylvania
Schools of Arts and Sciences
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