Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

Persistent and Stable Biases in Spatial Learning Mechanisms Predict Navigational Style

Academic journal article Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral Neuroscience

Persistent and Stable Biases in Spatial Learning Mechanisms Predict Navigational Style

Article excerpt

Published online: 15 May 2014

(Q> Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Abstract A wealth of evidence in rodents and humans sup- ports the central roles of two learning systems-hippocampal place learning and striatal response learning-in the formation of spatial representations to support navigation. Individual differences in the ways that these mechanisms are engaged during initial encoding and subsequent navigation may pro- vide a powerful framework for explaining the wide range of variability found in the strategies and solutions that make up human navigational styles. Previous work has revealed that activation in the hippocampal and striatal networks during learning could predict navigational style. Here, we used func- tional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the relative activations in these systems during both initial encoding and the act of dynamic navigation in a learned environment. Participants learned a virtual environment and were tested on subsequent navigation to targets within the environment. We observed that a given individual had a consistent balance of memory system engagement across both initial encoding and subsequent navigation, a balance that successfully pre- dicted the participants' tendencies to use novel shortcuts ver- sus familiar paths during dynamic navigation. This was fur- ther supported by the observation that the activation during subsequent retrieval was not dependent on the type of solution used on a given trial. Taken together, our results suggest a model in which the place- and response-learning systems are present in parallel to support a variety of navigational behav- iors, but stable biases in the engagement of these systems influence what solutions might be available for any given individual.

Keywords Navigation * Place and response learning * Hippocampus * Striatum * Caudate * Functional neuroimaging * Individual differences

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Ask any individual about his or her navigational abilities, and the answer might range dramatically from statements such as "I get lost all of the time" to'T have a great sense of direction." More critically, people will describe using very different methods for navigating the same everyday situations. Some individuals aim to establish effective (sometimes idiosyncrat- ic) routes that can be consistently traversed. Others tend to develop a more map-like understanding of the global structure of their environment that allows the use of different routes to reach the same destination, depending on the current goals and circumstances. Some may also report the use of beaconing strategies that take them from one salient landmark to another. Self-report measures have been useful in defining and identi- fying navigational styles (Lawton, 1994; Pazzaglia & De Beni, 2001; Schmitzer-Torbert, 2007), helping to classify the types of cues and strategies that participants prefer to use. Although these preferences for different sources of informa- tion and strategies likely play into people's perceptions oftheir navigational abilities, they also represent different effective solutions to the critical problem of navigation. Understanding individual differences in these navigational styles, as well as the degree to which individuals can flexibly engage different styles and strategies, will offer substantial insights into how humans accomplish the difficult task of learning about envi- ronments and responding to navigational challenges.

Recent empirical investigations have begun connecting these explicitly articulated navigational styles to underlying learning mechanisms (Marchette, Bakker, & Shelton, 2011; see Shelton, Marchette, & Furman, 2013, for review). This learning-mechanisms approach was derived from the ex- tensive literature on rodent learning and memory, and spe- cifically the distinction between place and response learn- ing (e.g., Packard & McGaugh, 1996; Restle, 1957; Tolman, 1948). …

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