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Eye movement‐related brain potentials during assisted navigation in real‐world environments

Wunderlich, Anna; Gramann, Klaus

FG Biopsychologie und Neuroergonomie

Conducting neuroscience research in the real‐world remains challenging because of movement‐ and environment‐related artifacts as well as missing control over stimulus presentation. The present study overcame these restrictions by mobile electroencephalography (EEG) and data‐driven analysis approaches during a real‐world navigation task. During assisted navigation through an unfamiliar city environment, participants received either standard or landmark‐based auditory navigation instructions. EEG data were recorded continuously during navigation. Saccade‐ and blink‐events as well as gait‐related EEG activity were extracted from sensor level data. Brain activity associated with the navigation task was identified by subsequent source‐based cleaning of non‐brain activity and unfolding of overlapping event‐related potentials. When navigators received landmark‐based instructions compared to those receiving standard navigation instructions, the blink‐related brain potentials during navigation revealed higher amplitudes at fronto‐central leads in a time window starting at 300 ms after blinks, which was accompanied by improved spatial knowledge acquisition tested in follow‐up spatial tasks. Replicating improved spatial knowledge acquisition from previous experiments, the present study revealed eye movement‐related brain potentials to point to the involvement of higher cognitive processes and increased processing of incoming information during periods of landmark‐based instructions. The study revealed neuronal correlates underlying visuospatial information processing during assisted navigation in the real‐world providing a new analysis approach for neuroscientific research in freely moving participants in uncontrollable real‐world environments.