Using fMRI to Explore the Influence of Road Network Patterns on Geospatial Cognition
Road networks play an important role in our daily life. People strongly interact with roads in commuting and tourism. The road network patterns influence human cognition, behaviour and the road safety. However, how the influence takes places remains unclear. In this paper, we experiment with fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to explore the influence of regular and irregular road networks on spatial cognition. Nine subjects were asked to accomplish orientation and shortest-route-selection tasks in both a regular and an irregular road network using street view. SPM (Statistical Parametric Mapping) was used to analyse the brain activities in the process. The results of orientation tasks show more activation in the middle frontal gyrus, relating to cognition, the superior frontal gyrus, relating to voluntary movement and eye movement, and the medial frontal gyrus, relating to executive process in irregular road network. The results indicate that the orientation task in an irregular road network is more demanding and requires more information. For shortest route selection tasks in both road networks, no common active brain areas among different subjects were found. This indicates that the associated cognition process is hardly influenced by road network patterns. In summary, orientation tasks are harder for subjects in irregular road networks, while the cognition difficulty is almost the same for shortest-route-selection tasks in regular and irregular road networks. Besides, subjects tend to use egocentric frame of reference more and switch between ego- and allocentric frame of reference more frequently in irregular road networks.