Self-reported navigation ability is associated with optic flow-sensitive regions' functional connectivity patterns during visual path integration.
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INTRODUCTION: Spatial navigation is a complex cognitive skill that varies between individuals, and the mechanisms underlying this variability are not clear. Studying simpler components of spatial navigation may help illuminate factors that contribute to variation in this complex skill; path integration is one such component. Optic flow provides self-motion information while moving through an environment and is sufficient for path integration. This study aims to investigate whether self-reported navigation ability is related to information transfer between optic flow-sensitive (OF-sensitive) cortical regions and regions important to navigation during environmental spatial tasks. METHODS: Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to define OF-sensitive regions and map their functional connectivity (FC) with the retrosplenial cortex and hippocampus during visual path integration (VPI) and turn counting (TC) tasks. Both tasks presented visual self-motion through a real-world environment. Correlations predicting a positive association between self-reported navigation ability (measured with the Santa Barbara Sense of Direction scale) and FC strength between OF-sensitive regions and retrosplenial cortex and OF-sensitive regions and the hippocampus were performed. RESULTS: During VPI, FC strength between left cingulate sulcus visual area (L CSv) and right retrosplenial cortex and L CSv and right hippocampus was positively associated with self-reported navigation ability. FC strength between right cingulate sulcus visual area (R CSv) and right retrosplenial cortex during VPI was also positively associated with self-reported navigation ability. These relationships were specific to VPI, and whole-brain exploratory analyses corroborated these results. CONCLUSIONS: These findings support the hypothesis that perceived spatial navigation ability is associated with communication strength between OF-sensitive and navigationally relevant regions during visual path integration, which may represent the transformation accuracy of visual motion information into internal spatial representations. More broadly, these results illuminate underlying mechanisms that may explain some variability in spatial navigation ability.
author list (cited authors)
Zajac, L., Burte, H., Taylor, H. A., & Killiany, R.
complete list of authors
Zajac, Lauren||Burte, Heather||Taylor, Holly A||Killiany, Ronald