The 4-on-8 virtual maze provides evidence for variability in spontaneous strategy use during navigation. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) confirmed that these spatial and response strategies rely on the hippocampus and caudate nucleus memory systems, respectively. We asked whether the spontaneous use of a particular navigational strategy was associated with a particular ability to navigate in one's environment. We tested 30 young participants on the 4-on-8 virtual maze and we assessed their way finding ability in a virtual town. As expected, spatial learners performed well in the virtual town and the response learners, who never used external landmarks and relied purely on an egocentric strategy, performed poorly. Interestingly, a group who used the most efficient response strategy based on external landmarks in the 4-on-8 virtual maze, switched to the most efficient spatial strategy in the virtual town. Our data suggest that the best navigators are those who appropriately use spatial or response strategies depending on the demands of the task.
(c) 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.