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date: 25 March 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Research in cognitive neuroscience in humans and animals has revealed a considerable degree of specialization of the brain for spatial functions, and has also revealed that the brain’s representation of space is separable from its representation of object identities. The current picture is that multiple and parallel frames of reference cooperate to make up a representation of space that allows efficient navigation and action within the surrounding physical environment. As humans, however, we do not simply “act” in space, but we also “know” it and “talk” about it. Hence, the human brain’s spatial representations may involve specifically human and novel patterns of lateralization and of brain areas’ specializations. Pathologies of space perception and spatially-directed attention, like spatial neglect, can be explained by the damage to one or several of these maps and frames of reference. The multiple spatial, cognitive, maps used by the human brain clearly cooperate toward flexible representations of spatial relations that are progressively abstract (or categorical) and may be apt to support the human ability to communicate spatial information and understand mathematical concepts. Nevertheless, a representation of space as extended and continuous is also necessary for the control of action and navigation.

Keywords: spatial representations, frames of reference, spatial neglect, lateralization, cognitive maps

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