Organizing conceptual knowledge in humans with a gridlike code

Science. 2016 Jun 17;352(6292):1464-1468. doi: 10.1126/science.aaf0941. Epub 2016 Jun 16.


It has been hypothesized that the brain organizes concepts into a mental map, allowing conceptual relationships to be navigated in a manner similar to that of space. Grid cells use a hexagonally symmetric code to organize spatial representations and are the likely source of a precise hexagonal symmetry in the functional magnetic resonance imaging signal. Humans navigating conceptual two-dimensional knowledge showed the same hexagonal signal in a set of brain regions markedly similar to those activated during spatial navigation. This gridlike signal is consistent across sessions acquired within an hour and more than a week apart. Our findings suggest that global relational codes may be used to organize nonspatial conceptual representations and that these codes may have a hexagonal gridlike pattern when conceptual knowledge is laid out in two continuous dimensions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Female
  • Functional Neuroimaging
  • Habits
  • Humans
  • Knowledge*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Spatial Navigation / physiology*
  • Young Adult