Neural correlates of topographic mental exploration: the impact of route versus survey perspective learning

Neuroimage. 2000 Nov;12(5):588-600. doi: 10.1006/nimg.2000.0648.


There are two major sources of information to build a topographic representation of an environment, namely actual navigation within the environment (route perspective) and map learning (survey perspective). The aim of the present work was to use positron emission tomography (PET) to compare the neural substrate of the topographic representation built from these two modes. One group of subjects performed a mental exploration task in an environment learned from actual navigation (mental navigation task). Another group of subjects performed exploration in the same environment learned from a map (mental map task). A right hippocampal activation common to both mental navigation and mental map tasks was evidenced and may correspond the neural substrate of a "dual-perspective" representation. The parahippocampal gyrus was additionally activated bilaterally during mental navigation only. These results suggest that the right hippocampus involvement would be sufficient when the representation incorporates essentially survey information while the bilateral parahippocampal gyrus would be involved when the environment incorporates route information and includes "object" landmarks. The activation of a parietofrontal network composed of the intraparietal sulcus, the superior frontal sulcus, the middle frontal gyrus, and the pre-SMA was observed in common for both mental navigation and mental map and is likely to reflect the spatial mental imagery components of the tasks.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Exploratory Behavior / physiology*
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Imagination / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiology
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed*