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Hippocampus. 2012 Aug;22(8):1770-80. doi: 10.1002/hipo.22011. Epub 2012 Mar 19.

Ageing effects on path integration and landmark navigation.

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  • 1Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.


Navigation abilities show marked decline in both normal ageing and dementia. Path integration may be particularly affected, as it is supported by the hippocampus and entorhinal cortex, both of which show severe degeneration with ageing. Age differences in path integration based on kinaesthetic and vestibular cues have been clearly demonstrated, but very little research has focused on visual path integration, based only on optic flow. Path integration is complemented by landmark navigation, which may also show age differences, but has not been well studied either. Here we present a study using several simple virtual navigation tasks to explore age differences in path integration both with and without landmark information. We report that, within a virtual environment that provided only optic flow information, older participants exhibited deficits in path integration in terms of distance reproduction, rotation reproduction, and triangle completion. We also report age differences in triangle completion within an environment that provided landmark information. In all tasks, we observed a more restricted range of responses in the older participants, which we discuss in terms of a leaky integrator model, as older participants showed greater leak than younger participants. Our findings begin to explain the mechanisms underlying age differences in path integration, and thus contribute to an understanding of the substantial decline in navigation abilities observed in ageing.

Copyright © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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