Most of our knowledge on the human neural bases of spatial updating comes from fMRI studies in which recumbent participants moved in virtual environments. As a result, little is known about the dynamic of spatial updating during real body motion. Here, we exploited the high temporal resolution of electroencephalography (EEG) to investigate the dynamics of cortical activation in a spatial updating task where participants had to remember their initial orientation while they were passively rotated about their vertical axis in the dark. After the rotations, the participants pointed towards their initial orientation. We contrasted the EEG signals with those recorded in a control condition in which participants had no cognitive task to perform during body rotations. We found that the amplitude of the P1N1 complex of the rotation-evoked potential (RotEPs) (recorded over the vertex) was significantly greater in the Updating task. The analyses of the cortical current in the source space revealed that the main significant task-related cortical activities started during the N1P2 interval (136-303 ms after rotation onset). They were essentially localised in the temporal and frontal (supplementary motor complex, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, anterior prefrontal cortex) regions. During this time-window, the right superior posterior parietal cortex (PPC) also showed significant task-related activities. The increased activation of the PPC became bilateral over the P2N2 component (303-470 ms after rotation onset). In this late interval, the cuneus and precuneus started to show significant task-related activities. Together, the present results are consistent with the general scheme that the first task-related cortical activities during spatial updating are related to the encoding of spatial goals and to the storing of spatial information in working memory. These activities would precede those involved in higher order processes also relevant for updating body orientation during rotations linked to the egocentric and visual representations of the environment.
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