Brainscapes: investigating how differences in environmental layout influence the neural topography of spatial navigation

Pilot study 2011-2012 conducted with the support of MaxNet Cognition.

Head of the project: Günther Schlee
Responsible researcher: Kirill Istomin

Brainscapes is a neuroanthropological project that aims to establish if group differences in navigation and spatial learning styles associated with detectable structural and functional traits of the brain really exist and, if they do, what impact they have on behavioural patterns of the members of the group. The pilot stage of the project focuses on one particular factor described in the previous section – the type of the environment of usual navigation – and attempts to check if this factor reliably causes a particular navigation and spatial learning style associated with detectable brain changes in an experienced navigator. In other words, our pilot study seeks to answer the following two research questions:

1) Does long-term experience of navigation in a particular type of environment (as characterized by the size of vista and number of distant and close landmarks) reliably produce preference for either mental map or route knowledge strategy of navigation and spatial learning in an individual?

2) Does the preference of an experienced navigator for a specific strategy of navigation reliably cause detectable functional and structural changes in one or several regions of his/her brain?

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