Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Video game used for study of human navigation

11.09.2003


Using a video game featuring a yellow taxi, virtual city and human players with electrodes embedded in their memory banks, neuroscientists at UCLA and Brandeis University have discovered how three types of brain cells interact to help people navigate the real world.

Published in the Sept. 11 edition of the peer-reviewed journal Nature, the findings offer unique information about how human memory works and present new avenues of investigation for treatment of memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

The research, which evaluated the responses of patients already attached to EEG monitors to determine the focus of epileptic seizures, also demonstrates how clinical patient settings offer unique opportunities to learn about the mind and body.



Researchers monitored signals from individual brain cells as patients played a computer game in which they explored a virtual town in a taxi. The players searched for passengers who appeared in random locations and delivered them to designated stores.

"Our findings provide the first glimpse at the visually based neural code used by humans to form spatial maps of their environment and navigate from location to location," said neurosurgeon Dr. Itzhak Fried, who is professor of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. "Damage to these groups of cells can cause people to lose their ability to negotiate their environment and remember new surroundings."

"The success of this project is also an important illustration of the value of clinical patient settings in learning about the mind and body," said Fried, who has pioneered methods for studying the cellular basis of human vision and memory. "The understanding gained from such studies may eventually help future patients with brain disorders affecting the brain memory systems."

The Nature article identifies distinct cells that help humans determine 1) where they are (place); 2) what they see (view); and 3) what they are looking for (goal). The research team found "place" cells primarily in the hippocampus and "view" cells primarily in the parahippocampal region.

"Our study shows how cells in the human brain rapidly learn to respond to complex features of our environment. One of the most intriguing discoveries was that some cells respond to combinations of place, view and goal. For example, we found cells that responded to viewing an object only when that object was a goal," said Dr. Michael Kahana, associate professor at Brandeis University and an expert in the neurophysiology of human spatial navigation.

"Our results suggest that our navigation system preserves some elements of the same system used by other mammals, but also has some features unique to us because of our highly developed visual system," said first author, Arne Ekstrom, who is a doctoral student at Brandeis University.

Previous research had identified "place" cells in the hippocampus of rodents, until now perhaps the most striking example of a correlation between brain cell activity and complex behavior in mammals. These cells increase their firing rate when the animal moves across specific portions of its surroundings.

Neuroimaging studies had implicated the hippocampus and the parahippocampal region as keys to human navigation, but until now it remained unclear whether rodent-like place coding occurs in humans, or whether human navigation is driven by a different neural mechanism based on vision.

This study shows that place cells are indeed important in humans, but that other cells aid in navigation by coding for landmarks (view cells) and the intended goal (goal cells).

At UCLA, the research team recorded responses of single neurons in seven subjects who were patients with epilepsy undergoing invasive monitoring with intracranial electrodes to identify the seizure focus for potential surgical treatment.

The researchers recorded the activity of 317 neurons: 67 cells in the hippocampus, 54 in the parahippocampal region, 111 in the amygdala and 85 in the frontal lobes. To determine the nature of cellular responses while subjects performed tasks on the computer, researchers compared activity rates related to subject location in the virtual town (place), the object they viewed (view), and their goal.



Online Resources:
UCLA Division of Neurosurgery: http://neurosun.medsch.ucla.edu
UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute: www.npi.ucla.edu
David Geffen School of Medicine: www.medsch.ucla.edu
Brandeis Computational Memory Laboratory: http://fechner.ccs.brandeis.edu
Dr. Itzhak Fried biography: http://neurosun.medsch.ucla.edu/Faculty/Fried/Faculty_Fried.html
Dr. Michael Kahana biography: http://memlab1.ccs.brandeis.edu/~kahana

Dan Page | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucla.edu/

More articles from Social Sciences:

nachricht Sibling differences: Later-borns choose less prestigious programs at university
14.11.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für demografische Forschung

nachricht Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ
09.11.2017 | Vanderbilt University

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Artificial agent designs quantum experiments

On the way to an intelligent laboratory, physicists from Innsbruck and Vienna present an artificial agent that autonomously designs quantum experiments. In initial experiments, the system has independently (re)discovered experimental techniques that are nowadays standard in modern quantum optical laboratories. This shows how machines could play a more creative role in research in the future.

We carry smartphones in our pockets, the streets are dotted with semi-autonomous cars, but in the research laboratory experiments are still being designed by...

Im Focus: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Let the good tubes roll

19.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

19.01.2018 | Health and Medicine

Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation

19.01.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>