Learning to navigate plays an integral role in the survival of humans and other animals. Research on human navigation has largely focused on how we deliberately map out our world. However, many of us also have experiences of navigating on "autopilot" or out of habit. Animal models have identified this cognitive mapping versus habit learning as two dissociable systems for learning a space-a hippocampal place-learning system and a striatal response-learning system. Here, we use this dichotomy in humans to understand variability in navigational style by demonstrating that brain activation during spatial encoding can predict where a person's behavior falls on a continuum from a more flexible cognitive map-like strategy to a more rigid creature-of-habit approach. These findings bridge the wealth of knowledge gained from animal models and the study of human behavior, opening the door to a more comprehensive understanding of variability in human spatial learning and navigation.
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