Hippocampal volume and navigational ability: The map(ping) is not to scale

Steven M. Weisberg, Arne D. Ekstrom

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


A critical question regards the neural basis of complex cognitive skill acquisition. One extensively studied skill is navigation, with evidence suggesting that humans vary widely in navigation abilities. Yet, data supporting the neural underpinning of these individual differences are mixed. Some evidence suggests robust structure-behavior relations between hippocampal volume and navigation ability, whereas other experiments show no such correlation. We focus on several possibilities for these discrepancies: 1) volumetric hippocampal changes are relevant only at the extreme ranges of navigational abilities; 2) hippocampal volume correlates across individuals but only for specific measures of navigation skill; 3) hippocampal volume itself does not correlate with navigation skill acquisition; connectivity patterns are more relevant. To explore this third possibility, we present a model emphasizing functional connectivity changes, particularly to extra-hippocampal structures. This class of models arises from the premise that navigation is dynamic and that good navigators flexibly solve spatial challenges. These models pave the way for research on other skills and provide more precise predictions for the neural basis of skill acquisition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-112
Number of pages11
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Brain volume
  • Functional connectivity
  • Hippocampus
  • MRI
  • Spatial navigation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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