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Navigating in a Virtual 3D Maze: Body and Gravity, Two Possible Reference Frames for Perceiving and Memorizing

Abstract : Although recent studies have brought new insight into the mechanisms of spatial memory and cognitive strategies during navigation, most of these studies have concerned two-dimensional navigation and little is known regarding the problem of three-dimensional (3D) spatial memory. We found previously that memorizing complex 3D-structured corridors was easier with natural self-motion that included only yaw turns, and vertical translations facing the walls at vertical sections. This suggests that when only sideways (yaw) mental rotations had to be performed in order to shift from the experienced egocentric to the allocentric reference frame where recognition was tested, memorization of such corridors was improved. In the present investigation we studied the effect of tilting separately subject's body axis and self-motion's rotation axis relative to gravity. With a computerized 3D reconstruction task of the maze, we examined whether having any single rotation axis was enough to facilitate this reference shift or, if not, what aspect of the terrestrial condition—where visual displacement rotation, gravity and body axes were aligned—led to better performance. Field dependent (FD) and independent (FI) subjects, as determined by the rod and frame test, showed distinct effects of the navigation conditions. The FD group performance was markedly impaired when gravity and body axis were in conflict, independently of the rotation axis, whereas FI performance only slightly worsened when the body was tilted and the rotation axis remained aligned with gravity. Moreover, tilting the body in the control condition only worsened performance for the FD group.
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Manuel Vidal, Alain Berthoz. Navigating in a Virtual 3D Maze: Body and Gravity, Two Possible Reference Frames for Perceiving and Memorizing. Spatial Cognition and Computation, Taylor & Francis, 2005, 5, pp.139 - 161. ⟨10.1080/13875868.2005.9683801⟩. ⟨hal-01519789⟩

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