Mental Space Travel: Damage to Posterior Parietal Cortex Prevents Egocentric Navigation and Reexperiencing of Remote Spatial Memories

J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2010 May;36(3):619-34. doi: 10.1037/a0019181.


The ability to navigate in a familiar environment depends on both an intact mental representation of allocentric spatial information and the integrity of systems supporting complementary egocentric representations. Although the hippocampus has been implicated in learning new allocentric spatial information, converging evidence suggests that the posterior parietal cortex (PPC) might support egocentric representations. To date, however, few studies have examined long-standing egocentric representations of environments learned long ago. Here we tested 7 patients with focal lesions in PPC and 12 normal controls in remote spatial memory tasks, including 2 tasks reportedly reliant on allocentric representations (distance and proximity judgments) and 2 tasks reportedly reliant on egocentric representations (landmark sequencing and route navigation; see Rosenbaum, Ziegler, Winocur, Grady, & Moscovitch, 2004). Patients were unimpaired in distance and proximity judgments. In contrast, they all failed in route navigation, and left-lesioned patients also showed marginally impaired performance in landmark sequencing. Patients' subjective experience associated with navigation was impoverished and disembodied compared with that of the controls. These results suggest that PPC is crucial for accessing remote spatial memories within an egocentric reference frame that enables both navigation and reexperiencing. Additionally, PPC was found to be necessary to implement specific aspects of allocentric navigation with high demands on spontaneous retrieval.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attention
  • Brain Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Orientation*
  • Parietal Lobe / injuries*
  • Parietal Lobe / physiopathology
  • Space Perception*
  • Spatial Behavior*