Research Topic

Functional relevance and representation of 3D space

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About this Research Topic

Our cognitive representations of 3D space have evolved to allow us to interact with objects that are relevant to us. In the space close to us, this must be good enough to enable us to grasp things to eat or use as tools or to hold a baby or hug a friend. For more distant space we need to be able to locate and ...

Our cognitive representations of 3D space have evolved to allow us to interact with objects that are relevant to us. In the space close to us, this must be good enough to enable us to grasp things to eat or use as tools or to hold a baby or hug a friend. For more distant space we need to be able to locate and move towards things that matter such as fruit on a tree or move away from things such as a predator. This requires something more than a passive representation of where and what things are in 3D space. Rather it requires a more dynamic representation of space that allows for the selective enhancement of those things that matter to us. This facilitates the accurate and speedy grasping or pointing or looking or movement towards functionally relevant items. Cognitively and neurologically the link between planned interactions with and sensory enhancement of those objects is becoming increasingly apparent and vice versa. How this is achieved is only beginning to be understood. The evidence seems to suggest multiple interacting representations of space in sensory and motor domains with attentional enhancement of items or locations within these.


This is a Research Topic on which different disciplines are converging. For example, physiological investigations have identified bimodal cells that could be a locus for interactions between visual and motor planning as well as other cross-modal effects. Cognitive studies speak to the same issue in work on attentional effects of planned movement of hands, eyes and in cross-modal attention. Neuropsychological investigations are showing dissociable spatial representations that are intrinsically linked with attention and that are malleable. In a similar vein Robotics are exploring synergies between sensing modules and motor control. At the same time the issues meshes well with the continuing Gibsonian ecological perspective of affordances and the broad philosophical perspective of embodied cognition.


The aim of this Frontiers Research Topic is to be a state of the art of current understanding of how space is represented. It aims to bring together in one place the understanding, concepts and models that have come from tackling related questions from different perspectives with diverse methodologies.


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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