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Encoding of 3D head direction information in the human brain

Kim, M; Maguire, EA; (2019) Encoding of 3D head direction information in the human brain. Hippocampus 10.1002/hipo.23060. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Head direction cells are critical for navigation because they convey information about which direction an animal is facing within an environment. To date, most studies on head direction encoding have been conducted on a horizontal two-dimensional (2D) plane, and little is known about how three-dimensional (3D) direction information is encoded in the brain despite humans and other animals living in a 3D world. Here, we investigated head direction encoding in the human brain while participants moved within a virtual 3D "spaceship" environment. Movement was not constrained to planes and instead participants could move along all three axes in volumetric space as if in zero gravity. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) multivoxel pattern similarity analysis, we found evidence that the thalamus, particularly the anterior portion, and the subiculum encoded the horizontal component of 3D head direction (azimuth). In contrast, the retrosplenial cortex was significantly more sensitive to the vertical direction (pitch) than to the azimuth. Our results also indicated that vertical direction information in the retrosplenial cortex was significantly correlated with behavioral performance during a direction judgment task. Our findings represent the first evidence showing that the "classic" head direction system that has been identified on a horizontal 2D plane also seems to encode vertical and horizontal heading in 3D space in the human brain.

Type: Article
Title: Encoding of 3D head direction information in the human brain
Location: United States
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1002/hipo.23060
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1002/hipo.23060
Language: English
Additional information: © 2018 The Authors. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: 3D navigation, fMRI, retrosplenial cortex, subiculum, thalamus
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Div of Biosciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10065023
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