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 New measure for the wellbeing of populations could replace Human Development Index
07.11.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht Because not only arguments count
30.10.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Mathematik in den Naturwissenschaften (MPIMIS)

All articles from Social Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

Im Focus: A step towards probabilistic computing

Working group led by physicist Professor Ulrich Nowak at the University of Konstanz, in collaboration with a team of physicists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, demonstrates how skyrmions can be used for the computer concepts of the future

When it comes to performing a calculation destined to arrive at an exact result, humans are hopelessly inferior to the computer. In other areas, humans are...

Im Focus: Recording embryonic development

Scientists develop a molecular recording tool that enables in vivo lineage tracing of embryonic cells

The beginning of new life starts with a fascinating process: A single cell gives rise to progenitor cells that eventually differentiate into the three germ...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

A simple, yet versatile, new design for chaotic oscillating circuitry inspired by prime numbers

22.05.2019 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Synthesis of helical ladder polymers

21.05.2019 | Materials Sciences

Ultra-thin superlattices from gold nanoparticles for nanophotonics

21.05.2019 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>