Brainscapes

Approach

Map of the terrain where the behavioural tests (second phase) were conducted in April 2012. Cartography: J. Turner, 2012

The Brainscapes project plans to innovatively combine ethnographic fieldwork methods with behavioural experiments and brain imaging techniques. This will involve the integration of ethnographic material regarding navigational strategies across cultural groups inhabiting distinct landscapes; ethnographic data collection; behavioural tests; and techniques of data gathering and analysis from cognitive and behavioural neuroscience. The pilot study in particular consists of three stages:

Stage 1: Screening process. The screening stage will involve an ethnographic interview in order to obtain details of the type of environment in which prospective participants grew up, their familiarity with it and their experience navigating it.

Stage 2: Behavioural investigation. In this stage, a subsample of participants from the screening stage will be administered a set of navigational tasks. . Both the quantitative and qualitative data on their performance during the realization of these tasks will be collected in order to diagnose their preference for and mastery of each of the two navigational strategies.

Stage 3: Brain imaging. In stage three, five people with way-finding preference and five people with route-following preference from stage two will be invited to take part in a brain imaging experiment where functional and structural pictures of their brains will be taken. Participants will be allowed to explore and learn two new virtual environments, one of them being open-vista, the other being closed-vista type. They will then be given several localization tasks in these environments to perform during functional MRI scanning.

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