The Department of Biomedicine

BBB Seminar: Kathryn J. Jeffery

Navigating in a 3D world – is the brain's map of space actually flat?

Kathryn J. Jeffery
Institute of Behavioural Neuroscience, Department of Cognitive, Perceptual and Brain Sciences, University College London, UK

Understanding how the brain constructs a neural map of large-scale navigable space has been a major goal of neuroscience in the past few decades. This is partly because space is an excellent model system with which to study how "knowledge" structures are constructed by the brain, and partly because the map seems to form the scaffold upon which episodic memories are laid down - understanding the map will therefore help us understand memory and amnesia.

Research up until recently has focused on flat, 2D environments but the real-world is 3D. Navigating in three dimensions poses unique problems that are not present in two and it is not known how, or even if, the brain solves this complex representational task. This talk will present both theoretical musings and research data from behavioural observations and single neuron recordings made in rats that suggest that the vertebrate map of space is planar rather than volumetric - that is, it is locally flat. The advantages and limitations of a flat map of space will be explored.

Host: Boleslaw Srebro, Department of Biomedicine