Virtual teleportation changes how we think of space

The prestigious journal Psychophysiology has just published our new paper on the neural background of navigation. For the impatient (like myself) I’m summarising the interesting parts of the results and methods here.

We found that when we introduce the possibility of virtual teleportation in a task, people start to represent space differently in their brain. Not only teleportation creates shortcuts, which are conveniently used by participants 1, 2, but we show that different from the results of earlier studies 3, 4 they start to see the place in allocentric instead of egocentric coordinates.

The experiment

From the methodological point of view: We used a good variety of tools. The task was a simple cross-maze where participants had to turn left or right in each trial from a variable starting point. Because each alley could have been represented as being either e.g. on the ‘right’ or the ‘West’ alley we were tested which coding explains better the choice sequence (behaviour) and the event related potential changes (EEG) of the participants.

For the behavioural data, we used Bayesian statistics to show how unlikely that participants were preferring one alley and didn’t really develop more considerate strategies. We used binomial regression to test the preference of win-stay and similar strategies, also to help the understanding of the results we added null-distributions generated based on Bernouli trials on the figures.

For the EEG analysis we performed randomization based statistical analysis and performed topographical comparisons. This revealed that the P1 difference we found was not signaling stronger processing of one alley than the other, but rather reflecting different topographies for the two alleys. This type of analysis is valuable because helps researchers to turn their focus from channel or cluster based changes to the investigation of changes in the whole EEG topography.

Click here for a preprint version of the paper or contact me at for a copy of the published version.