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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

January 2005, Vol. 17, No. 1, Pages 73-83
(doi: 10.1162/0898929052879987)
© 2005 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Learning Places from Views: Variation in Scene Processing as a Function of Experience and Navigational Ability
Article PDF (2.32 MB)

Humans and animals use information obtained from different viewpoints to form representations of the spatial structure of the world. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) adaptation to investigate the neural basis of this learning process and to show how the concomitant representations vary across individuals as a function of navigational ability. In particular, we examined the effect of repeating viewpoint and/ or place information over both short (within-trial) and long (across-scan) intervals on the neural response in scene processing regions. Short-term fMRI adaptation effects in the parahippocampal cortex were initially highly viewpoint-specific but became less so over time. Long-term fMRI repetition effects included a significant viewpoint-invariant component. When individual differences in navigational ability were considered, a significant correlation between the strength of these effects and self-reported navigational competence was observed. In particular, good navigators encoded representations that differed between new and old views and new and old places, whereas bad navigators did not. These results suggest that cortical scene representations evolve over time to become more viewpoint-invariant and that the quality of these representations directly impacts navigational ability.