Caudate nucleus-dependent navigation strategies are associated with increased risk-taking and set-shifting behavior

Learn Mem. 2019 Mar 21;26(4):101-108. doi: 10.1101/lm.048306.118. Print 2019 Apr.


When people navigate, they use strategies dependent on one of two memory systems. The hippocampus-based spatial strategy consists of using multiple landmarks to create a cognitive map of the environment. In contrast, the caudate nucleus-based response strategy is based on the memorization of a series of turns. Importantly, response learners display more gray matter and functional activity in the caudate nucleus and less gray matter in the hippocampus. In parallel, the caudate nucleus is involved in decision-making by mediating attention toward rewards and in set-shifting by mediating preparatory actions. The present study, therefore, examined the link between navigational strategy use, that are associated with gray matter differences in the caudate nucleus and hippocampus, and decision-making and set-shifting performance. Fifty-three participants completed the 4 on 8 virtual maze, the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT), the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test-64 (WCST-64), and a task-switching test. The results revealed that people who use response strategies displayed increased risk-taking behavior in the IGT compared to the people using hippocampus-dependent spatial strategies. Response strategy was also associated with enhanced set-shifting performance in the WCST-64 and task-switching test. These results confirm that risk-taking and set-shifting behavior, that are differentially impacted by the caudate nucleus and hippocampus memory systems, can be predicted by navigational strategy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Caudate Nucleus / physiology*
  • Decision Making / physiology*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Spatial Navigation / physiology*
  • Young Adult