Goal-oriented representations in the human hippocampus during planning and navigation
Recent work in cognitive and systems neuroscience has suggested that the hippocampus might support planning, imagination, and navigation by forming cognitive maps that capture the abstract structure of physical spaces, tasks, and situations. Navigation involves disambiguating similar contexts, and the planning and execution of a sequence of decisions to reach a goal. Here, we examine hippocampal activity patterns in humans during a goal-directed navigation task to investigate how contextual and goal information are incorporated in the construction and execution of navigational plans. During planning, hippocampal pattern similarity is enhanced across routes that share a context and a goal. During navigation, we observe prospective activation in the hippocampus that reflects the retrieval of pattern information related to a key-decision point. These results suggest that, rather than simply representing overlapping associations or state transitions, hippocampal activity patterns are shaped by context and goals.