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Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2014 Apr 17;10:653-60. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S58185. eCollection 2014.

Spatial memory impairments in amnestic mild cognitive impairment in a virtual radial arm maze.

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Department of Psychiatry, Seoul National University, Seoul, South Korea ; Seoul Metropolitan Government - Seoul National University Boramae Medical Center, Seoul, South Korea.
Department of Psychiatry, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, South Korea.
Department of Psychiatry, Osan Mental Hospital, Gyeonggi, South Korea.



This study aims to apply the virtual radial arm maze (VRAM) task to find spatial working memory and reference memory impairments in patients of amnestic mild cognitive impairment (aMCI) and Alzheimer's disease (AD). Spatial memory functions between aMCI converters and nonconverters are also compared using VRAM results.


We assessed the spatial memory in 20 normal controls, 20 aMCI, and 20 mild AD subjects using VRAM. The Mini-Mental State Examination, Clinical Dementia Rating scale, and other neuropsychological tests were given to the subjects in conjunction with the VRAM test. Scores in working memory errors and reference memory errors were compared among the three groups using repeated measures analysis of variance. In addition, aMCI patients were followed-up after 5 years and surveyed for AD conversion rate.


In AD patients, both spatial working and reference memory were impaired. However, in aMCI subjects, only spatial reference memory was impaired. Significant spatial reference memory impairment was found in the aMCI converter group when compared to the nonconverter group.


Spatial working memory is less impaired in aMCI while reference memory is similarly damaged in AD. In aMCI patients, more severe spatial reference memory deficit is a neuropsychological marker for AD conversion. VRAM may be well utilized in humans to assess spatial memory in normal aging, in aMCI, and in AD.


Alzheimer’s disease; cognition; spatial behavior; user computer interface

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