Human Spatial Memory and Navigation
Tim McNamara
Vanderbilt University

My presentation will summarize several lines of research aimed at determining how the spatial structure of the environment is represented in memory, how people use this knowledge to find their way in the world, and how we stay oriented during locomotion. This research indicates that the human spatial memory and navigation system is composed of three principal subsystems: The egocentric subsystem computes and represents self-to-object spatial relations using various egocentric reference systems and supports steering and path integration; the viewpoint-dependent subsystem stores visual-spatial "snapshots" of landmarks and scenes using egocentric reference systems and supports place recognition; and the environmental subsystem represents object-to-object spatial relations using intrinsic reference systems, and is used for wayfinding and locating unseen goals. Time permitting, recent findings on the possible role of grid cells in human path integration will be presented.