Three cortical areas (Retro-Splenial Cortex (RSC), Transverse Occipital Sulcus (TOS) and Parahippocampal Place Area (PPA)) respond selectively to scenes. However, their wider role in spatial encoding and their functional connectivity remain unclear. Using fMRI, first we tested the responses of these areas during spatial comparison tasks using dot targets on white noise. Activity increased during task performance in both RSC and TOS, but not in PPA. However, the amplitude of task-driven activity and behavioral measures of task demand were correlated only in RSC. A control experiment showed that none of these areas were activated during a comparable shape comparison task. Secondly, we analyzed functional connectivity of these areas during the resting state. Results revealed a significant connection between RSC and frontal association areas (known to be involved in perceptual decision-making). In contrast, TOS showed functional connections dorsally with the Inferior Parietal Sulcus, and ventrally with the Lateral Occipital Complex--but not with RSC and/or frontal association areas. Moreover, RSC and TOS showed differentiable functional connections with the anterior-medial and posterior-lateral parts of PPA, respectively. These results suggest two parallel pathways for spatial encoding, including RSC and TOS respectively. Only the RSC network was involved in active spatial comparisons.
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