When we move toward a novel environment we may learn it in different ways, i.e., by walking around or studying a map. Both types of learning seem to be very effective in daily life navigation and correspond to two different types of mental representation of space: route and survey representation. In the present study, we investigated the neural basis of route and survey perspectives during learning and retrieval of novel environments. The study was carried out over 5 days, during which participants learned two paths from a different perspective (i.e., route learning and survey learning). Then participants had to retrieve these paths using a survey or route perspective during fMRI scans, on the first and fifth day. We found that the left inferior temporal lobe and right angular gyrus (AG) were activated more during recall of paths learned in a survey perspective than in a route perspective. We also found a session by perspective interaction effect on neural activity in brain areas classically involved in navigation such as the parahippocampal place area (PPA) and the retrosplenial cortex (RSC). A set of frontal, parietal and temporal areas showed different patterns of activity according to the type of retrieval perspective. We tested the context-dependent connectivity of right PPA, RSC and AG, finding that these areas showed different patterns of connectivity in relation to the learning and recalling perspective. Our results shed more light on the segregation of neural circuits involved in the acquisition of a novel environment and navigational strategies.
- Topographical learning
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