Cognition Workshop 05/24/23: Alexandra Keinath

Title: Dynamic maps of a dynamic world

Alexandra Keinath, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois, Chicago

Abstract: Extensive research has revealed that the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex maintain a rich representation of space through the coordinated activity of place cells, grid cells, and other spatial cell types. Frequently described as a ‘cognitive map’ or a ‘hippocampal map’, these maps are thought to support episodic memory through their instantiation and retrieval. Though often a useful and intuitive metaphor, a map typically evokes a static representation of the external world. However, the world itself, and our experience of it, are intrinsically dynamic. Here I will present three projects where we address how hippocampal and entorhinal representations adapt to, incorporate, and overcome these dynamics. In the first project, I will describe how boundaries dynamically anchor entorhinal grid cells and human spatial memory alike when the shape of a familiar environment is changed. In the second project, I will describe how the hippocampus maintains a representation of the recent past even in the absence of disambiguating sensory and explicit task demands, a representation which causally depends on intrinsic hippocampal circuitry. In the third project, I will describe ongoing work from my lab leveraging environmental deformations to quantitatively compare spatial codes across regions, species, and levels of explanation, setting the stage for more exciting work to come.

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