A virtual reality-based FMRI study of reward-based spatial learning. Academic Article uri icon


  • Although temporo-parietal cortices mediate spatial navigation in animals and humans, the neural correlates of reward-based spatial learning are less well known. Twenty-five healthy adults performed a virtual reality fMRI task that required learning to use extra-maze cues to navigate an 8-arm radial maze and find hidden rewards. Searching the maze in the spatial learning condition compared to the control conditions was associated with activation of temporo-parietal regions, albeit not including the hippocampus. The receipt of rewards was associated with activation of the hippocampus in a control condition when using the extra-maze cues for navigation was rendered impossible by randomizing the spatial location of cues. Our novel experimental design allowed us to assess the differential contributions of the hippocampus and other temporo-parietal areas to searching and reward processing during reward-based spatial learning. This translational research will permit parallel studies in animals and humans to establish the functional similarity of learning systems across species; cellular and molecular studies in animals may then inform the effects of manipulations on these systems in humans, and fMRI studies in humans may inform the interpretation and relevance of findings in animals.

published proceedings

  • Neuropsychologia

author list (cited authors)

  • Marsh, R., Hao, X., Xu, D., Wang, Z., Duan, Y., Liu, J., ... Peterson, B. S.

citation count

  • 45

complete list of authors

  • Marsh, Rachel||Hao, Xuejun||Xu, Dongrong||Wang, Zhishun||Duan, Yunsuo||Liu, Jun||Kangarlu, Alayar||Martinez, Diana||Garcia, Felix||Tau, Gregory Z||Yu, Shan||Packard, Mark G||Peterson, Bradley S

publication date

  • January 2010