Mobile brain/body imaging of landmark-based navigation with high-density EEG.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Eur J Neurosci, 2021, 54, (12), pp. 8256-8282
Issue Date:
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Coupling behavioral measures and brain imaging in naturalistic, ecological conditions is key to comprehend the neural bases of spatial navigation. This highly integrative function encompasses sensorimotor, cognitive, and executive processes that jointly mediate active exploration and spatial learning. However, most neuroimaging approaches in humans are based on static, motion-constrained paradigms and they do not account for all these processes, in particular multisensory integration. Following the Mobile Brain/Body Imaging approach, we aimed to explore the cortical correlates of landmark-based navigation in actively behaving young adults, solving a Y-maze task in immersive virtual reality. EEG analysis identified a set of brain areas matching state-of-the-art brain imaging literature of landmark-based navigation. Spatial behavior in mobile conditions additionally involved sensorimotor areas related to motor execution and proprioception usually overlooked in static fMRI paradigms. Expectedly, we located a cortical source in or near the posterior cingulate, in line with the engagement of the retrosplenial complex in spatial reorientation. Consistent with its role in visuo-spatial processing and coding, we observed an alpha-power desynchronization while participants gathered visual information. We also hypothesized behavior-dependent modulations of the cortical signal during navigation. Despite finding few differences between the encoding and retrieval phases of the task, we identified transient time-frequency patterns attributed, for instance, to attentional demand, as reflected in the alpha/gamma range, or memory workload in the delta/theta range. We confirmed that combining mobile high-density EEG and biometric measures can help unravel the brain structures and the neural modulations subtending ecological landmark-based navigation.
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