Financial Support

PHASE 2 – 2016-'17-'18-'19

Spatial Navigation

Geography – Anthropology – Psychological & Brain Sciences

Project Summary

Spatial navigation is one of the most fundamental behaviors carried out by an animal. In recent years, spatial navigation has come to the forefront of several academic disciplines. In Neuroscience, spatial navigation has emerged as a potential behavioral marker for detecting individuals at risk for dementia, with performance declining with age. In Cognitive Science, a long-standing literature has probed sex differences in spatial cognition. In Endocrinology, spatial navigation is studied with respect to sex and stress hormones’ role in shaping the brain’s navigational circuitry and, in turn, an animal’s performance. In Anthropology, the evolutionary pressures that shape these sex differences are paramount. In Geography, researchers examine underlying perceptions of the navigational environment and the distortions thereof. Participants in this Crossroads project examined the topic of spatial navigation from these traditionally distinct but inherently overlapping academic disciplines. Students and faculty from the departments of Psychological & Brain Sciences, Geography, Anthropology, and English delved into existing literature on sex differences in navigation and spatial cognition, the effects of menopause on the brain and behavior, navigation sex differences in animals and human societies, and the neuroscience of aging. The crossroads fellows developed a broad understanding of spatial navigation that will form the basis of their doctoral research, and developed a set of pedagogical videos exploring spatial navigation from different disciplinary perspectives. The project helped launch a highly interdisciplinary research program that has resulted in one submitted manuscript, one grant proposal, and several ongoing research projects.

Faculty Investigators

Elizabeth Chrastil

Steven Gaulin

Mary Hegarty
(Psychological & Brain Sciences)

Emily Jacobs
(Psychological & Brain Sciences)


Lily Cheng

Carol He
(Psychological & Brain Sciences)

Jessica Zisa

Shuying Yu
(Psychological & Brain Sciences)