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Psychol Aging. 2005 Dec;20(4):683-694. doi: 10.1037/0882-7974.20.4.683.

Environmental topography and postural control demands shape aging-associated decrements in spatial navigation performance.

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Max Planck Institute for Human Development.
Saarland University.


This study tests the hypothesis that aging-induced cognitive permeation of sensorimotor functions contributes to adult age differences in spatial navigation performance. Virtual maze-like museums were projected in front of a treadmill. Sixteen 20-30-year-old men and sixteen 60-70-year-old men performed a way-finding task in city-block or variable topographies while walking with or without support. Walking support attenuated age-related decrements in navigational learning. Navigation load increased trunk-angle variability for older adults only. Age differences in spatial knowledge persisted despite perfect place-finding performance. City-block topography was easier than variable topography for younger adults only, indicating age-related differences in reliance on spatial relational learning. Attempts at supporting older adults' navigation performance should consider sensorimotor/cognitive interactions and qualitative differences in navigational activity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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