Event Title

Cognitive Factors Affecting Spatial Performance

Mentor 1

Ira Driscoll

Location

Union Wisconsin Room

Start Date

24-4-2015 2:30 PM

End Date

24-4-2015 3:45 PM

Description

Although previous research has focused on associations between spatial navigation performance and neuropsychological tests of visuospatial abilities or memory, effective navigation may also require considerable executive resources to select appropriate search strategies and monitor performance. The virtual Morris Water Task (vMWT) is a translational version of the classic paradigm used to investigate place learning and memory in rodents. Executive functions refer to higher-level control of cognitive processes, including cognitive flexibility, planning, and logical reasoning. The objective of this study was to assess the association between spatial navigation using the vMWT and cognitive abilities in three areas: 1) executive functioning (measured using Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System [D-KEFS] Towers, Category Switching, and Stroop subtests); 2) verbal skills (category and lexical fluency tasks); and visuospatial ability (Mental Rotations Task). We hypothesized that higher executive functioning and visuospatial abilities, but not verbal skills, would be associated with lower latency and distance to complete vMWT learning trials. Furthermore, we predicted that associations between executive functioning and navigation performance would be strongest during the first trial of the vMWT, which requires selection and employment of effective search strategies. Participants included 46 adults (8 males, 38 females; 18-52 years old). As we predicted, higher total latency to complete vMWT learning trials was associated with lower set switching (r = -.35, p = .03) and a trend level effect of spatial planning on the Towers task (r = -.31, p= .07). Higher vMWT total distance was also associated with more errors on a visuospatial task requiring participants to mentally rotate objects (r = .42, p = .007). Regarding performance on the first trial of the vMWT, there was a significant association between latency to find the hidden platform and total items named on the Category Switching task (r = -.33, p = .04) as well as total switching accuracy (r = .35, p = .03). Our findings indicate that planning, logical reasoning and the ability to switch between mental sets are important considerations in one’s ability to spatially navigate, in addition to memory and visuospatial ability. This may inform our knowledge of factors that may contribute to age-related differences in navigation performance. The use of virtual mazes could also lead to follow up studies that train poorer performing individuals to learn more efficient spatial strategies. This sort of training paradigm could be used with younger participants, as well as older participants who tend to perform less well on some spatial tasks.

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Apr 24th, 2:30 PM Apr 24th, 3:45 PM

Cognitive Factors Affecting Spatial Performance

Union Wisconsin Room

Although previous research has focused on associations between spatial navigation performance and neuropsychological tests of visuospatial abilities or memory, effective navigation may also require considerable executive resources to select appropriate search strategies and monitor performance. The virtual Morris Water Task (vMWT) is a translational version of the classic paradigm used to investigate place learning and memory in rodents. Executive functions refer to higher-level control of cognitive processes, including cognitive flexibility, planning, and logical reasoning. The objective of this study was to assess the association between spatial navigation using the vMWT and cognitive abilities in three areas: 1) executive functioning (measured using Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System [D-KEFS] Towers, Category Switching, and Stroop subtests); 2) verbal skills (category and lexical fluency tasks); and visuospatial ability (Mental Rotations Task). We hypothesized that higher executive functioning and visuospatial abilities, but not verbal skills, would be associated with lower latency and distance to complete vMWT learning trials. Furthermore, we predicted that associations between executive functioning and navigation performance would be strongest during the first trial of the vMWT, which requires selection and employment of effective search strategies. Participants included 46 adults (8 males, 38 females; 18-52 years old). As we predicted, higher total latency to complete vMWT learning trials was associated with lower set switching (r = -.35, p = .03) and a trend level effect of spatial planning on the Towers task (r = -.31, p= .07). Higher vMWT total distance was also associated with more errors on a visuospatial task requiring participants to mentally rotate objects (r = .42, p = .007). Regarding performance on the first trial of the vMWT, there was a significant association between latency to find the hidden platform and total items named on the Category Switching task (r = -.33, p = .04) as well as total switching accuracy (r = .35, p = .03). Our findings indicate that planning, logical reasoning and the ability to switch between mental sets are important considerations in one’s ability to spatially navigate, in addition to memory and visuospatial ability. This may inform our knowledge of factors that may contribute to age-related differences in navigation performance. The use of virtual mazes could also lead to follow up studies that train poorer performing individuals to learn more efficient spatial strategies. This sort of training paradigm could be used with younger participants, as well as older participants who tend to perform less well on some spatial tasks.