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Penn research reveals brain region crucial for using boundaries to navigate

Imagine a room or a landscape or a city street.

Part of what differentiates that scene from a face or an object is the fact that it has boundaries, and University of Pennsylvania researchers Joshua Julian, Russell Epstein, Jack Ryan and Roy Hamilton aimed to parse out which part of the brain helps perceive those borders. What they learned, through two experiments involving transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, is that this function falls to the occipital place area, also called the OPA.

Experiment 1 Environments
In the first experiment, two objects always appeared in the same position relative to the room’s boundary; the other two always appeared in the same spot relative to another object acting as a landmark. This image shows the boundary wall and a landmark object.
Credit: University of Pennsylvania