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Rachel C Metzgar, Michael F Bonner, Russell A Epstein; What lies beyond: Representations of the connectivity structure of the local environment. Journal of Vision 2019;19(10):161b. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/19.10.161b.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
To navigate in a familiar environment, it is useful to have a representation of the relationship between the local perceptual scene and the broader spatial surroundings. It has been suggested that retrosplenial complex (RSC), a scene-selective region of the brain, plays an important role in this function. Here we use multivoxel pattern analysis (MVPA) of fMRI data to test the idea that RSC and other scene-selective regions represent memories of the connections between the local environment and adjacent parts of space. Before scanning, participants (N=18) learned the locations of 32 target objects within 4 environments by navigating through them in immersive virtual reality. Each environment consisted of a rectangular room with two visually identical doors, one of which led to a small closet, the other to an exterior space. We then scanned participants while they viewed snapshots of the corresponding rooms with all objects removed and reported whether the remembered locations of objects were on the left or right from the depicted view. MVPA revealed evidence for coding of the locations of the target objects as a function of their status as either within the local room or through the doors leading to the closet or exterior environment. These effects were most prominent in RSC, but a searchlight analysis suggested that this information was encoded throughout the anterior scene network consisting of RSC, anterior parahippocampal place area, and the caudal inferior parietal lobe (Baldassano et al. 2016; Silson et al. 2016). These findings suggest that anterior scene-selective regions, especially RSC, contain memory representations of the connectivity structure of navigable space. These representations may allow one to identify nearby spaces that are not visible in the current scene but have been encoded in memory through repeated navigational experience.
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