Researchers in the Spatial Cognition and Navigation Lab are interested in how we remember where things are in space and how we use that knowledge to navigate through an environment. Our research broadly investigates cognitive and neural mechanisms of human spatial navigation, which currently focuses on following four topics:
1. Path integration and its neural mechanisms
When you briefly view a target on the ground as far as 70 ft away and walk toward it with your eyes closed, you can stop at the target quite accurately without any systematic error. Because your eyes are closed while walking, you are keeping track of your current location relative to the target just by using bodily senses about your walking trajectory. This process is known as path integration, which is a fundamental component of our navigation ability. Demonstration like the one above shows that we humans (and other animals as well) are very good at path integration, but it is still largely unknown how the brain carries out such complex computation with great ease and accuracy. By working with patients who have focal brain injury, we are trying to find out which part(s) of the brain is critically involved in human path integration.
- Yamamoto, N. (2012). The role of active locomotion in space perception. Cognitive Processing, 13, S365–S368. [Postprint] [Published Article]
- Yamamoto, N., & Hirsch, D. A. (2012). “What” versus “how” in nonvisual whole-body movement. In N. Miyake, D. Peebles, & R. P. Cooper (Eds.), Proceedings of the 34th annual conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 2558–2563). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society. [Published Article]
- Yamamoto, N., Philbeck, J. W., Woods, A. J., Gajewski, D. A., Arthur, J. C., Potolicchio, S. J., Levy, L., & Caputy, A. J. (under reivew). Medial temporal lobe roles in human path integration.
2. Navigation deficits in healthy aging and psychiatric/neurological disorders
Impaired spatial navigation is a common symptom among various neurological and psychiatric disorders including topographical disorientation, hemispatial neglect, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease. It is sometimes observed in healthy older adults too. However, in many of these cases psychological and neurological origins of the navigation impairment are still poorly identified, creating an urgent need for further investigation. We are currently working with the healthy elderly as well as patients with mild cognitive impairment to examine what kinds of navigation problems they have and why they are suffering from them.
Relevant publications and presentations
- Yamamoto, N., & DeGirolamo, G. J. (2012). Differential effects of aging on spatial learning through exploratory navigation and map reading. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 4(14), 1–7. [Published Article]
- Yamamoto, N., & Muschter, E. (2011, May). Schizotypal traits and distance perception. Poster presented at the 23rd annual convention of the Association for Psychological Science, Washington, DC.
- Yamamoto, N., Philbeck, J. W., Fedio, P., Potolicchio, S. J., Caputy, A. J., de Leonni Stanonik, M., & Kontra, C. E. (2009, March). Navigating across the lifespan: Path integration deficits in patients with mild cognitive impairment. Poster presented at the 16th annual meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, San Francisco, CA. [Poster]
3. Multimodal spatial learning and memory
Spatial information about an environment can be learned in many different ways. For example, you can see where windows are located, localize sounds coming from a TV, register direction and distance between a door and a couch through body movement, and feel a remote on a table as you reach for it. In this manner, we are receiving multiple pieces of spatial information about the same environment from different modalities. How are those pieces of spatial information from multiple modalities organized and represented in human spatial memory? To address this question, we are exploring whether (and more importantly, how) different modalities of spatial learning make unique contributions to mental representations of space.
- Shelton, A. L., & Yamamoto, N. (2009). Visual memory, spatial representation, and navigation. In J. R. Brockmole (Ed.), The visual world in memory (pp. 140–177). Hove, UK: Psychology Press. [Preview]
- Yamamoto, N., & Shelton, A. L. (2009). Orientation dependence of spatial memory acquired from auditory experience. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 16, 301–305. [Published Article]
- Yamamoto, N., & Shelton, A. L. (2005). Visual and proprioceptive representations in spatial memory. Memory & Cognition, 33, 140–150. [Published Article]
- Yamamoto, N., & Philbeck, J. W. (under review). Intrinsic frames of reference in haptic spatial learning.
4. Integration of object locations into a representation of spatial layout
Spatial learning in everyday environments usually involves remembering the layout of multiple objects, rather than just memorizing one particular object location. Given that it is often impossible to perceive the whole environment at once, learning a spatial layout entails the integration of individual object locations into a representation of the entire layout. It seems that we can carry out this integration rather efficiently, but how do we achieve this? For example, probably you know the layout of your neighborhood very well, but have you ever explicitly tried to learn the spatial relation among your home, grocery store, laundromat, and café? In this line of research, we are examining possible factors that allow us to effectively construct a memory representation of spatial layout from separate pieces of information about individual object locations.
- Yamamoto, N., & Philbeck, J. W. (2013). Peripheral vision benefits spatial learning by guiding eye movements. Memory & Cognition, 41, 109–121. [Postprint] [Published Article]
- Yamamoto, N., & Shelton, A. L. (2009). Sequential versus simultaneous viewing of an environment: Effects of focal attention to individual object locations on visual spatial learning. Visual Cognition, 17, 457–483. [Postprint] [Published Article]
- Yamamoto, N., & Shelton, A. L. (2008). Integrating object locations in the memory representation of a spatial layout. Visual Cognition, 16, 140–143. [Postprint] [Published Article]
- Yamamoto, N., & Shelton, A. L. (2007). Path information effects in visual and proprioceptive spatial learning. Acta Psychologica, 125, 346–360. [Postprint] [Published Article]
(A complete list of our publications is available in the publications page.)