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Experience with the Cardinal Coordinate System Contributes to the Precision of Cognitive Maps

Hao, X., Huang, Y., Song, Y., Kong, X., & Liu, J. (2017). Experience with the Cardinal Coordinate System Contributes to the Precision of Cognitive Maps. Frontiers in Psychology, 8: 1166. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01166.
The coordinate system has been proposed as a fundamental and cross-culturally used spatial representation, through which people code location and direction information in the environment. Here we provided direct evidence demonstrating that daily experience with the cardinal coordinate system (i.e., east, west, north, and south) contributed to the representation of cognitive maps. Behaviorally, we found that individuals who relied more on the cardinal coordinate system for daily navigation made smaller errors in an indoor pointing task, suggesting that the cardinal coordinate system is an important element of cognitive maps. Neurally, the extent to which individuals relied on the cardinal coordinate system was positively correlated with the gray matter volume of the entorhinal cortex, suggesting that the entorhinal cortex may serve as the neuroanatomical basis of coordinate-based navigation (the entorhinal coordinate area, ECA). Further analyses on the resting-state functional connectivity revealed that the intrinsic interaction between the ECA and two hippocampal sub-regions, the subiculum and cornu ammonis, might be linked with the representation precision of cognitive maps. In sum, our study reveals an association between daily experience with the cardinal coordinate system and cognitive maps, and suggests that the ECA works in collaboration with hippocampal sub-regions to represent cognitive maps.
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The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

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