Evaluating age-related cognitive Map decay using a Novel time-delayed testing paradigm
A critical component of effective navigation is the ability to form and maintain accurate cognitive maps. Proper cognitive map maintenance can become difficult for older adults as many of the constituent memory structures exhibit degradation with age. The present study employed a novel testing paradigm where younger adult participants (20 to 40 years) and older adult participants (60 to 80 years) learned a virtual environment through free exploration using an immersive driving simulator. After the learning phase, participants immediately sketched a map of the course. As forming an accurate baseline cognitive map was critical to this methodological procedure, they were provided additional learning time if placement of landmarks and roads were not within a given accuracy tolerance. Upon meeting criterion, participants completed egocentric and allocentric pointing tasks. Following this lab-based testing, participants were given 2 packets containing the exact same map sketching and pointing tasks to complete one-day and one-week after the study. Results showed clear age group differences, with older adult map sketching and pointing performance being significantly worse than their younger counterparts. There was also a clear numeric trend showing declines in performance for the older adults at the delayed-testing time intervals as compared to the in-lab testing. These findings suggest that the stored cognitive maps of older adults may exhibit greater decay over time as compared to younger adults. Future studies using this new methodological paradigm will be helpful in further elucidating the processes underlying spatial knowledge decay in older adults.
Bennett, C.R. and Giudice, N.A. (2017). Evaluating age-related cognitive Map decay using a Novel time-delayed testing paradigm. In: Barkowsky, T., Burte, H., Hölscher, C., & Schultheis, H. (Eds.). Spatial Cognition X (part of Spatial Cognition 2016). Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol. 10523, Pp. 69-85. Springer, Cham.