Spatial representations of the viewer’s surroundings

Understanding how the brain learns to navigate through the 3 dimensional environment with visual cues.

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In the article Spatial representations of the viewers surroundings, research led by Satoshi Shiori assessed how people visualise their surroundings to go about their everyday activities. 

The human brain is known for understanding the visual world using a process called conceptual representation. This type of visualisation is a bit like creating a mental image using symbolic maps, similar to language (conceptual). However, for the purposes of this study, the researchers concentrated on a second type of visual processing, how people navigate through the environment without conscious effort (implicit).  

To isolate the implicit process from the conceptual, the researchers placed people in a miniature space surrounded by screens, a mock representation of the 360 degree view people normally experience. In this small space, people learned about their spatial environment using visual cues, referred to as a contextual cueing effect (CCE). 

The study found people constructed a visual image of the landscape in two ways, by looking at objects and spaces in their direct line of vision, combined with their peripheral sight over several seconds, which they called the CCE of surrounds, or CCES.

The results of the study revealed the visual system links both direct and indirect vision through repeated observation, which helps us do familiar activities like driving, walking, sports and lots more.

Interestingly, the researchers reported the visual system can construct a wider area than the actual visible area and believe this ability is assisted by integration with the other senses, for example, what we hear, smell and touch around us.  

To read more on how the brain learns about the environment through visual cues, please follow the link to the Scientific Reports article here.

Gabrielle Ahern

Managing Community Editor, npj Science of Learning Community

I have developed an interesting portfolio of skills and experience in science communication and content creation. My qualifications include a BA (GU), BMarSt.Hon (UQ), CertIV in TESOL (ACC), GCertTertTLP (UOW) and a GCertJ (UQ). You're welcome to contact me, if you would like to join the Community and contribute a blog about the mind, brain or education space.