17:00 - 18:00 11 September 2012
Location: Pearson (North East Entrance) G22 LT
Over the last decade a growing number of studies have incorporated functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as a novel method to investigate research questions of a geographic and cartographic nature. Functional MRI is certainly a welcome complement to classical methods as it allows for a detailed examination of the neural mechanisms associated with a variety geographic processes including geospatial thinking and visualization, spatial learning and navigation. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these studies have been conducted by experts in other disciplines and disseminated in academic journals in psychology and the cognitive neurosciences often limiting their exposure and impact in more traditional geography departments. This is further compounded by a certain amount of resistance from the field to accept fMRI as a necessary or even a valid method for geographic research.
In this presentation we will review a variety of studies conducted at the University of Pennsylvania and University of Oregon that have used fMRI in combination with GIS, spatial modeling and desktop virtual reality in order to examine the behavioral and neural mechanisms that support the acquisition and manipulation of geographic spatial knowledge. The presentation will be divided into two parts. In the first part, we will present data from studies that have investigated the neural correlates of map learning and manipulation including mental rotation, pattern detection, scale and magnitude. The second part will focus on navigation and individual differences in spatial ability. Here we will present studies that have looked at real and virtual world route learning, direction and location coding and the influence of cognitive style (preference for visual or verbal information) in navigation.
The presentation will conclude by proposing a research agenda that attempts to integrate the disciplines of geography and cognitive neuroscience paving the way for a future multidisciplinary branch of neural cognitive geography. It will also argue how geographers may be particularly apt for research in neuroscience given that they already possess many of the key skills necessary for fMRI research such as spatial statistics and data visualization.