Individual Differences in Human Path Integration Abilities Correlate with Gray Matter Volume in Retrosplenial Cortex, Hippocampus, and Medial Prefrontal Cortex

Abstract

Humans differ in their individual navigational abilities. These individual differences may exist in part because successful navigation relies on several disparate abilities, which rely on different brain structures. One such navigational capability is path integration, the updating of position and orientation, in which navigators track distances, directions, and locations in space during movement. Although structural differences related to landmark-based navigation have been examined, gray matter volume related to path integration ability has not yet been tested. Here, we examined individual differences in two path integration paradigms: (1) a location tracking task and (2) a task tracking translational and rotational self-motion. Using voxel-based morphometry, we related differences in performance in these path integration tasks to variation in brain morphology in 26 healthy young adults. Performance in the location tracking task positively correlated with individual differences in gray matter volume in three areas critical for path integration: the hippocampus, the retrosplenial cortex, and the medial prefrontal cortex. These regions are consistent with the path integration system known from computational and animal models and provide novel evidence that morphological variability in retrosplenial and medial prefrontal cortices underlies individual differences in human path integration ability. The results for tracking rotational self-motion-but not translation or location-demonstrated that cerebellum gray matter volume correlated with individual performance. Our findings also suggest that these three aspects of path integration are largely independent. Together, the results of this study provide a link between individual abilities and the functional correlates, computational models, and animal models of path integration.

DOI: 10.1523/ENEURO.0346-16.2017

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Chrastil2017IndividualDI, title={Individual Differences in Human Path Integration Abilities Correlate with Gray Matter Volume in Retrosplenial Cortex, Hippocampus, and Medial Prefrontal Cortex}, author={Elizabeth R. Chrastil and Katherine R. Sherrill and Irem Aselcioglu and Michael E. Hasselmo and Chantal E. Stern}, booktitle={eNeuro}, year={2017} }