Neural evidence supports a novel framework for spatial navigation

Psychon Bull Rev. 2013 Apr;20(2):208-27. doi: 10.3758/s13423-012-0351-6.


The spatial knowledge used for human navigation has traditionally been separated into three categories: landmark, route, and survey knowledge. While behavioral research has retained this framework, it has become increasingly clear from recent neuroimaging studies that such a classification system is not adequate for understanding the brain. This review proposes a new framework, with a taxonomy based on the cognitive processes and subprocesses involved in spatial navigation. The neural correlates of spatial memory can inform our understanding of the cognitive processes involved in human navigation, and conversely, the specific task demands of an experiment can inform the interpretation of neuroimaging results. This review examines the neural correlates of each cognitive process separately, to provide a closer inspection of each component of spatial navigation. While landmark, route, and survey knowledge are still important components of human navigation, the neural correlates are not neatly ascribed to these three categories. The present findings provide motivation for a more detailed examination of the cognitive processes engaged during wayfinding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Electroencephalography
  • Functional Neuroimaging
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Spatial Behavior / physiology