1. Neuroscience
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A central role for the retrosplenial cortex in de novo environmental learning

  1. Stephen D Auger
  2. Peter Zeidman
  3. Eleanor A Maguire  Is a corresponding author
  1. University College London, United Kingdom
Research Article
  • Cited 29
  • Views 2,237
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Cite this article as: eLife 2015;4:e09031 doi: 10.7554/eLife.09031

Abstract

With experience we become accustomed to the types of environments that we normally encounter as we navigate in the world. But how does this fundamental knowledge develop in the first place and what brain regions are involved? To examine de novo environmental learning, we created an 'alien' virtual reality world populated with landmarks of which participants had no prior experience. They learned about this environment by moving within it during functional MRI (fMRI) scanning while we tracked their evolving knowledge. Retrosplenial cortex (RSC) played a central and highly selective role by representing only the most stable, permanent features in this world. Subsequently, increased coupling was noted between RSC and hippocampus, with hippocampus then expressing knowledge of permanent landmark locations and overall environmental layout. Studying how environmental representations emerge from scratch provided a new window into the information processing underpinning the brain's navigation system, highlighting the key influence of the RSC.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Stephen D Auger

    Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Peter Zeidman

    Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Eleanor A Maguire

    Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, United Kingdom
    For correspondence
    e.maguire@ucl.ac.uk
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

Ethics

Human subjects: The studies were approved by the University College London Research Ethics Committee: #1825/003 Minimum Risk Magnetic Resonance Imaging Studies of Healthy Human Cognition. Written informed consent was obtained from each participant for participation in the study, for data analysis and for publication of the study results.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Howard Eichenbaum, Boston University, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: May 28, 2015
  2. Accepted: August 14, 2015
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: August 18, 2015 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: September 4, 2015 (version 2)

Copyright

© 2015, Auger et al.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

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