Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

Navigation of a mind-space. The spatial organization of declarative knowledge

Project description

Changing the way we think about the human mind

How do we think about the human mind? What happens in our brain? Is it possible that the complex neural machinery that mammals evolved to navigate space has been recycled to ‘navigate’ declarative knowledge? Studies have shown that declarative knowledge is spatially organised and can be stored, retrieved and manipulated through the same computations used to represent and navigate physical space. The EU-funded NOAM project will use cutting-edge neuroimaging and analysis techniques to test the relationships between spatial and conceptual navigation. It will check whether people who navigate space in a different way (congenitally blind individuals) also navigate concepts in a different way. The next step will be to explore how low-dimensional cognitive maps interact with multidimensional semantic information.

Objective

"Your brain is among the most complex existing systems, and it processes every second an amazing amount of data. The most amazing thing, however, is that you get to know some of it.
Declarative knowledge, meaning the portion of knowledge that we can consciously access and manipulate, is one of the most enduring mysteries of the human mind. How did it evolve? And what are the mechanisms behind it? One possibility is that the complex neural machinery that mammals evolved to navigate space has been recycled to ""navigate"" declarative knowledge. Research from single cell recordings in rodents to brain imaging studies with humans is converging toward the fascinating hypothesis that conscious declarative knowledge is spatially organized, and can be stored, retrieved and manipulated through the same computations used to represent and navigate physical space. Crucially, this spatial scaffolding may be what makes knowledge accessible to us.
The time is mature for an integral and ambitious attempt to test and develop this innovative hypothesis. NOAM will be at the frontline of this endeavour relying upon cutting-edge neuroimaging and analysis techniques. In this project we will test the relationships between spatial and conceptual navigation asking whether people that navigate space in a different way (congenitally blind individuals) also navigate concepts in a different way. Then, we will explore how low-dimensional cognitive maps interact with multidimensional semantic information, and we will test whether the spatial organization is a trademark of conscious declarative knowledge or extends to unconscious conceptual processing. Finally we will adopt a translational approach to characterize the neural basis of pre-clinical Alzheimer Disease.
Thanks to its groundbreaking nature and high-risk/high-gain approach, NOAM has the potential to ensure major progresses in cognitive neuroscience, artificial intelligence and related fields, changing the way we think about the human mind"

Coordinator

UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI TRENTO
Net EU contribution
€ 1 498 644,00
Address
Via calepina 14
38122 Trento
Italy

See on map

Region
Nord-Est Provincia Autonoma di Trento Trento
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Links
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (1)