Magnetoencephalography (MEG) was used to study alpha and theta activity while subjects navigated through a computer-generated virtual reality town. The subjects were first allowed to explore the environment freely. They then had to navigate from a starting point to a destination, knowing that an obstruction would appear at one of several possible locations along the main route and force them to take a detour. Spatiotemporal analysis of the theta and alpha bands were performed (1) prior to the start of navigation, (2) from the start of navigation until the obstruction was encountered, (3) during the time subjects were contemplating a detour and were not navigating, and (4) from the resumption of navigation until the destination was reached. In all subjects, theta power was strongest during the two periods of navigation. The peak frequency of the oscillations was approximately 3.7 Hz. Control studies consisted of a motor task similar to that required for navigation, passive viewing of a tour through the same virtual reality town, and a mental concentration task. No consistent increases in theta power were seen in the MEG during any of the control tasks. The results suggest an association between theta rhythm and the performance of navigational tasks in humans.

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