Path integration in large-scale space and with novel geometries: Comparing vector addition and encoding-error models

Sevan K. Harootonian, Robert C. Wilson, Lukáš Hejtmánek, Eli M. Ziskin, Arne D. Ekstrom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Path integration is thought to rely on vestibular and proprioceptive cues yet most studies in humans involve primarily visual input, providing limited insight into their respective contributions. We developed a paradigm involving walking in an omnidirectional treadmill in which participants were guided on two sides of a triangle and then found their back way to origin. In Experiment 1, we tested a range of different triangle types while keeping the distance of the unguided side constant to determine the influence of spatial geometry. Participants overshot the angle they needed to turn and undershot the distance they needed to walk, with no consistent effect of triangle type. In Experiment 2, we manipulated distance while keeping angle constant to determine how path integration operated over both shorter and longer distances. Participants underestimated the distance they needed to walk to the origin, with error increasing as a function of the walked distance. To attempt to account for our findings, we developed configural-based computational models involving vector addition, the second of which included terms for the influence of past trials on the current one. We compared against a previously developed configural model of human path integration, the Encoding- Error model. We found that the vector addition models captured the tendency of participants to under-encode guided sides of the triangles and an influence of past trials on current trials. Together, our findings expand our understanding of body-based contributions to human path integration, further suggesting the value of vector addition models in understanding these important components of human navigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1007489
JournalPLoS computational biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Ecology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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