Multiple reference frames used by the human brain for spatial perception and memory

Gaspare Galati, Gina Pelle, Alain Berthoz, Giorgia Committeri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We review human functional neuroimaging studies that have explicitly investigated the reference frames used in different cortical regions for representing spatial locations of objects. Beyond the general distinction between "egocentric" and "allocentric" reference frames, we provide evidence for the selective involvement of the posterior parietal cortex and associated frontal regions in the specific process of egocentric localization of visual and somatosensory stimuli with respect to relevant body parts ("body referencing"). Similarly, parahippocampal and retrosplenial regions, together with specific parietal subregions such as the precuneus, are selectively involved in a specific form of allocentric representation in which object locations are encoded relative to enduring spatial features of a familiar environment ("environmental referencing"). We also present a novel functional magnetic resonance imaging study showing that these regions are selectively activated, whenever a purely perceptual spatial task involves an object which maintains a stable location in space during the whole experiment, irrespective of its perceptual features and its orienting value as a landmark. This effect can be dissociated from the consequences of an explicit memory recall of landmark locations, a process that further engages the retrosplenial cortex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-120
Number of pages12
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010


  • Allocentric
  • Egocentric
  • Functional neuroimaging
  • Parahippocampal place area
  • Retrosplenial cortex
  • Spatial reference frames

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Multiple reference frames used by the human brain for spatial perception and memory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this