Credit to Simin Xi,who worked with me and built this virtual kitchen for her honors project.
Most people have had the experience of coming out of a subway and being suddenly lost. When this happens, how do we get our sense of direction back? Solving this problem requires us to recognize landmarks in the world around us, and use them to regain our bearings. However, this solution is only possible when we can recognize the landmarks as familiar and then remember where they are in the world. My research focuses on these spatial memories that make human navigation possible--memories that allow us to recognize where we are and which let us anchor our internal representations of our location and heading onto features of the external world. These memories help us to find our way in our daily life, to find ourselves when we get lost, and allow us to close our eyes and mentally return to places we left long ago.
My approach to these questions depends upon both behavioral and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) experiments, with an emphasis on methods that allow us to understand how spatial information is organized and represented in memory. In analysis of behavior, this often involves priming or the multidimensional scaling of spatial judgments; in neuroimaging, multivoxel pattern analysis fills this role.
For a recent story on my work on the role of the retrosplenial complex (RSC) in representing our heading in the local environment, click here.