Medial parietal cortex encodes perceived heading direction in humans

Baumann, Oliver and Mattingley, Jason B. (2010) Medial parietal cortex encodes perceived heading direction in humans. Journal of Neuroscience, 30 39: 12897-12901. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3077-10.2010

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Author Baumann, Oliver
Mattingley, Jason B.
Title Medial parietal cortex encodes perceived heading direction in humans
Journal name Journal of Neuroscience   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0270-6474
Publication date 2010-09-29
Year available 2010
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3077-10.2010
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Volume 30
Issue 39
Start page 12897
End page 12901
Total pages 5
Place of publication Washington, DC, U.S.A.
Publisher Society for Neuroscience
Language eng
Abstract The ability to encode and update representations of heading direction is crucial for successful navigation. In rats, head-direction cells located within the limbic system alter their firing rate in accordance with the animal's current heading. To date, however, the neural structures that underlie an allocentric or viewpoint-independent sense of direction in humans remain unknown. Here we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure neural adaptation to distinctive landmarks associated with one of four heading directions in a virtual environment. Our experiment consisted of two phases: a "learning phase," in which participants actively navigated the virtual maze; and a "test phase," in which participants viewed pairs of images from the maze while undergoing fMRI. We found that activity within the medial parietal cortex—specifically, Brodmann area 31—was modulated by learned heading, suggesting that this region contains neural populations involved in the encoding and retrieval of allocentric heading information in humans. These results are consistent with clinical case reports of patients with acquired lesions of medial posterior brain regions, who exhibit deficits in forming and recalling links between landmarks and directional information. Our findings also help to explain why navigation disturbances are commonly observed in patients with Alzheimer's disease, whose pathology typically includes the cortical region we have identified as being crucial for maintaining representations of heading direction.
Keyword Human spatial navigation
Alzheimers disease
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2011 Collection
Queensland Brain Institute Publications
School of Psychology Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 52 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
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Created: Sun, 31 Oct 2010, 10:06:37 EST