Modeling mental navigation in scenes with multiple objects

Neural Comput. 2004 Sep;16(9):1851-72. doi: 10.1162/0899766041336468.


Various lines of evidence indicate that animals process spatial information regarding object locations differently from spatial information regarding environmental boundaries or landmarks. Following Wang and Spelke's (2002) observation that spatial updating of egocentric representations appears to lie at the heart of many navigational tasks in many species, including humans, we postulate a neural circuit that can support this computation in parietal cortex, assuming that egocentric representations of multiple objects can be maintained in prefrontal cortex in spatial working memory (not simulated here). Our method is a generalization of an earlier model by Droulez and Berthoz (1991), with extensions to support observer rotation. We can thereby simulate perspective transformation of working memory representations of object coordinates based on an egomotion signal presumed to be generated via mental navigation. This biologically plausible transformation would allow a subject to recall the locations of previously viewed objects from novel viewpoints reached via imagined, discontinuous, or disoriented displacement. Finally, we discuss how this model can account for a wide range of experimental findings regarding memory for object locations, and we present several predictions made by the model.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Imagination
  • Mental Processes / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neural Networks, Computer*
  • Space Perception / physiology*