Background. To go from one place to another, we routinely generate internal representations of surrounding spaces, which can include egocentric (body-centred) and allocentric (world-centred) coordinates, combined into route and survey representations. Recent studies have shown how both egocentric and allocentric representations exist in parallel and are joined to support behaviour according to the task. Our study investigated the transfer from survey (map-like) to route representations in healthy and brain-damaged subjects. The aim was two-fold: first, to understand how this ability could change with age in a sample of healthy participants, aged from 40 to 71 years old; second, to investigate how it is affected after a brain lesion in a 8 patients' sample, with reference to specific neuropsychological frames. Methods. Participants were first required to perform the paper and pencil version of eight mazes, then to translate the map-like paths into egocentric routes, in order to find the right way into equivalent Virtual Reality (VR) mazes. Patients also underwent a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation, including a specific investigation of some topographical orientation components. Results. As regards the healthy sample, we found age-related deterioration in VR task performance. While education level and gender were not found to be related to performance, global cognitive level (Mini Mental State Examination), previous experience with computer and fluidity of navigation into the VR appeared to influence VR task results. Considering the clinical sample, there was a difficulty in performing the VR Maze task; executive functions and visuo-spatial abilities deficits appeared to be more relevant for predicting patients' results. Conclusions. Our study suggests the importance of developing tools aimed at investigating the survey to route transfer ability in both healthy elderly and clinical samples, since this skill seems high cognitive demanding and sensitive to cognitive decline. Human-computer interaction issues should be considered in employing new technologies, such as VR environments, with elderly subjects and neurological patients.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Informatics