Spatial Orientation Research

Adaptive plasticity

Adaptive plasticity driven by cross-sensory experience maintains spatial calibration between the senses, here challenged by an abnormal magnification of auditory space imposed by increasing the distance between the ears.

An essential goal of the nervous system is to maintain our orientation relative to the outside world. This is crucial even for simple activities such as walking and reaching for objects. To perform these tasks, we must accurately identify our position with respect to our surroundings, distinguish our own movements from those of others, and control our movements through a complex world. Spatial orientation is maintained by the nervous system and its sensory inputs: vision and audition provide information about external objects, proprioception conveys the configuration of the body and its parts, and vestibular inputs register head orientation and motion. These sensory inputs are integrated and processed to generate specific behaviors that support natural activities. Examples include coordinated eye and/or head movements that help us fixate or track targets of interest, others that control posture and gait, and those that control hand movements in order to acquire and manipulate objects. How these crucial and ubiquitous functions work, how they maintain proper coordination and concordance, and how they break down with disease or aging constitute important and persistent concerns. A further interest is how specific sensorimotor functions can be manipulated adaptively in ways that might lead to the development of effective interventions. Such interventions are essential to the process of improving rehabilitation following disease or surgery, and might be exploited to ameliorate the deteriorations of aging.