Psychology ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 5-13-2022


Strategies of navigation is a topic that has been investigated for decades and is still not well-understood. Organisms learn to navigate by using self-generated cues, distal cues, and proximal cues, however, how the different frames of reference are interpreted by different areas of the brain and translated into behavior is not clear. Animal studies have provided evidence for a preference for navigation by following a direction in the environment over place learning. This study investigated the performance of adolescents (mean age: 13.89) in a virtual version of the Morris Water Task with a probe trial manipulation attempting to categorize people based on a strategy of navigation preferences. Analysis of behavioral performance revealed a preference for directional responding (following a direction in the room/ using the apparatus reference frame) which is consistent with animal reports. BOLD activation showed greater activation of the left precuneus in the group with a preference for directional responding compared to those who did not show a systematic strategy for navigation. Collectively, these findings provide evidence for the development of different strategies of navigation during learning trials and the BOLD activation differences show the involvement of the network supporting navigation that includes the hippocampal formation and areas outside of the hippocampus, particularly the involvement of the precuneus in a type of navigation that involves orientation and distance estimation.

Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Dr. Derek Hamilton

Second Committee Member

Dr. Marisa Silveri

Third Committee Member

Dr. Benjamin Clark

Fourth Committee Member

Dr. Jeremy Hogeveen

Fifth Committee Member

Dr. Vince Clark




spatial navigation, fMRI, parietal cortex, strategies of navigation, virtual morris water task, adolescents

Document Type


Included in

Psychology Commons