The role of the fornix in human navigational learning.

07:00 EST 26th November 2019 | BioPortfolio

Summary of "The role of the fornix in human navigational learning."

Experiments on rodents have demonstrated that transecting the white matter fibre pathway linking the hippocampus with an array of cortical and subcortical structures - the fornix - impairs flexible navigational learning in the Morris Water Maze (MWM), as well as similar spatial learning tasks. While diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (dMRI) studies in humans have linked inter-individual differences in fornix microstructure to episodic memory abilities, its role in human spatial learning is currently unknown. We used high-angular resolution diffusion MRI combined with constrained spherical deconvolution-based tractography, to ask whether inter-individual differences in fornix microstructure in healthy young adults would be associated with spatial learning in a virtual reality navigation task. To efficiently capture individual learning across trials, we adopted a novel curve fitting approach to estimate a single index of learning rate. We found a statistically significant correlation between learning rate and the microstructure (mean diffusivity) of the fornix, but not that of a comparison tract linking occipital and anterior temporal cortices (the inferior longitudinal fasciculus, ILF). Further, this correlation remained significant when controlling for both hippocampal volume and participant gender. These findings extend previous animal studies by demonstrating the functional relevance of the fornix for human spatial learning in a virtual reality environment, and highlight the importance of a distributed neuroanatomical network, underpinned by key white matter pathways, such as the fornix, in complex spatial behaviour.


Journal Details

This article was published in the following journal.

Name: Cortex; a journal devoted to the study of the nervous system and behavior
ISSN: 1973-8102
Pages: 97-110


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Heavily myelinated fiber bundle of the TELENCEPHALON projecting from the hippocampal formation to the HYPOTHALAMUS. Some authorities consider the fornix part of the LIMBIC SYSTEM. The fimbria starts as a flattened band of axons arising from the subiculum and HIPPOCAMPUS, which then thickens to form the fornix.

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