Multiple Reference Frames Used by the Human Brain for Spatial Perception and Memory

Exp Brain Res. 2010 Oct;206(2):109-20. doi: 10.1007/s00221-010-2168-8. Epub 2010 Feb 26.

Abstract

We review human functional neuroimaging studies that have explicitly investigated the reference frames used in different cortical regions for representing spatial locations of objects. Beyond the general distinction between "egocentric" and "allocentric" reference frames, we provide evidence for the selective involvement of the posterior parietal cortex and associated frontal regions in the specific process of egocentric localization of visual and somatosensory stimuli with respect to relevant body parts ("body referencing"). Similarly, parahippocampal and retrosplenial regions, together with specific parietal subregions such as the precuneus, are selectively involved in a specific form of allocentric representation in which object locations are encoded relative to enduring spatial features of a familiar environment ("environmental referencing"). We also present a novel functional magnetic resonance imaging study showing that these regions are selectively activated, whenever a purely perceptual spatial task involves an object which maintains a stable location in space during the whole experiment, irrespective of its perceptual features and its orienting value as a landmark. This effect can be dissociated from the consequences of an explicit memory recall of landmark locations, a process that further engages the retrosplenial cortex.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping*
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Reference Values
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult

Substances

  • Oxygen