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30 March 2009

Age and dementia related differences in spatial navigation within an immersive virtual environment

Konstantine K. ZakzanisACDEFG, Genevieve QuintinABCDEF, Simon J. GrahamACDG, Richard MrazABCD

Med Sci Monit 2009; 15(4): CR140-150 :: ID: 869613

Abstract

Background
Immersive virtual reality (VR) is an innovative tool that can allow study of human spatial navigation in a realistic but controlled environment. The purpose of this study was to examine age- and Alzheimer's disease-related differences in route learning and memory using VR.
Material and Method
The spatial memory task took place in a VR environment set up on a Computer Workstation. Participants were immersed by putting video unit goggles over their eyes using a Head Mounted. Participants were shown a path within a virtual city, and then had to navigate it as quickly and accurately as possible. They were granted four learning trials on this path. An interference path was then presented before asking participants to re-navigate the first route at short and long delays. Finally, participants were tested for recognition of the city's buildings and objects.
Results
Young adults were consistently quicker and more accurate in their path navigation than older participants whilst those patients with Alzheimer's Disease made more mistakes on the recognition task in particular, being more likely to mistakenly affirm having seen an element in the city when it was in fact a foil.
Conclusions
Our study would suggest that spatial navigation is susceptible to the effects of aging and Alzheimer's Disease. The potential applications of VR to the study of spatial navigation is seemingly important in that it may help place the science of neuropsychology on firmer scientific grounds in terms of its validity to real world function and dysfunction.

Keywords: Spatial Behavior, Dementia - physiopathology, Aged, 80 and over, User-Computer Interface

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