Spatial Memory Development

Temple Tour

Navigation and episodic memory are both fundamental cognitive processes: important aspects of mature decision- making that can guide ongoing behavior. Conceptually, they are linked, because accurate retrieval of spatial and temporal context supports episodic recall and because the ability to accurately integrate different types of information is the foundation of both processes. Neurally, both systems rely on the hippocampus and its connection to other cortical areas. The Temple Tour project investigates how navigation and episodic memory relate to each other, both in young adults and in children, behaviorally and by mapping behavioral changes onto neural substrates. We will use a naturalistic tour task in which children (8-9 years of age) and young adults experience the spatial layout of a novel environment and encode sixteen distinct events, and then assess their knowledge of the environment and their episodic recollection of the events, based on a common experience. If you are interested in participating in this project, please contact Kim Nguyen (

Development of Cognitive Maps

Building cognitive maps allows for flexibility in navigating the world around us. Having a mental reconstruction of the city you live in will help greatly in navigating from point A to point B and forming more efficient paths between locations through shortcuts. The development of navigation behavior extends from infancy through adolescence, but we know relatively little about the neural processes underlying this behavior in humans. In this new study, we aim to add a novel insight on how these processes form during childhood and are modified into adulthood using behavioral and MRI methods. We have created a virtual environment where children will navigate through by playing a scavenger hunt game. Additionally, our research includes a component that attempts to disentangle how spatial abilities map onto non-spatial contexts. In this game, kids will view child-friendly pictures on a screen and earn a prize for completing all the levels. With a novel spatial virtual navigation game and an innovative non-spatial game, we are excited to work with children from 8-12 years to learn more about how their brains work! If you are interested in participating in this study, please contact Kim Nguyen at

Related study results:

Paper:  Nazareth, A., Weisberg, S. M., Margulis, K., & Newcombe, N. S. (2018). Charting the development of cognitive mapping. Journal of experimental child psychology170, 86-106.

Poster: Brucato, M., Nazareth, A., & Newcombe, N. S. (2019, October) Longitudinal Development of Cognitive Maps. Poster presented at the Cognitive Development Society, Louisville, KY.