Common Neural Representations for Visually Guided Reorientation and Spatial Imagery

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Spatial knowledge about an environment can be cued from memory by perception of a visual scene during active navigation or by imagination of the relationships between nonvisible landmarks, such as when providing directions. It is not known whether these different ways of accessing spatial knowledge elicit the same representations in the brain. To address this issue, we scanned participants with fMRI, while they performed a judgment of relative direction (JRD) task that required them to retrieve real-world spatial relationships in response to either pictorial or verbal cues. Multivoxel pattern analyses revealed several brain regions that exhibited representations that were independent of the cues to access spatial memory. Specifically, entorhinal cortex in the medial temporal lobe and the retrosplenial complex (RSC) in the medial parietal lobe coded for the heading assumed on a particular trial, whereas the parahippocampal place area (PPA) contained information about the starting location of the JRD. These results demonstrate the existence of spatial representations in RSC, ERC, and PPA that are common to visually guided navigation and spatial imagery.

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