The current study used fMRI in humans to examine goal-directed navigation in an open field environment. We designed a task that required participants to encode survey-level spatial information and subsequently navigate to a goal location in either first person, third person, or survey perspectives. Critically, no distinguishing landmarks or goal location markers were present in the environment, thereby requiring participants to rely on path integration mechanisms for successful navigation. We focused our analysis on mechanisms related to navigation and mechanisms tracking linear distance to the goal location. Successful navigation required translation of encoded survey-level map information for orientation and implementation of a planned route to the goal. Our results demonstrate that successful first and third person navigation trials recruited the anterior hippocampus more than trials when the goal location was not successfully reached. When examining only successful trials, the retrosplenial and posterior parietal cortices were recruited for goal-directed navigation in both first person and third person perspectives. Unique to first person perspective navigation, the hippocampus was recruited to path integrate self-motion cues with location computations toward the goal location. Last, our results demonstrate that the hippocampus supports goal-directed navigation by actively tracking proximity to the goal throughout navigation. When using path integration mechanisms in first person and third person perspective navigation, the posterior hippocampus was more strongly recruited as participants approach the goal. These findings provide critical insight into the neural mechanisms by which we are able to use map-level representations of our environment to reach our navigational goals.



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Journal of Neuroscience


Society for Neuroscience

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