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Behav Processes. 2015 Feb;111:42-50. doi: 10.1016/j.beproc.2014.11.015. Epub 2014 Nov 25.

Sex differences in spatial navigation and perception in human adolescents and emerging adults.

Author information

1
Neurodevelopmental Laboratory on Addictions and Mental Health, McLean Imaging Center, McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA, USA; Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA. Electronic address: jtsneider@mclean.harvard.edu.
2
Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, USA.
3
Neurodevelopmental Laboratory on Addictions and Mental Health, McLean Imaging Center, McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA, USA; Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
4
Center for Depression, Anxiety and Stress Research, McLean Hospital, Belmont, MA, USA; Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.

Abstract

Males typically outperform females on spatial tasks, beginning early in life and continuing into adulthood. This study aimed to characterize age and sex differences in human spatial ability using a virtual Water Maze Task (vWMT), which is based on the classic Morris water maze spatial navigation task used in rodents. Performance on the vWMT and on a task assessing visuospatial perception, Mental Rotations Test (MRT), was examined in 33 adolescents and 39 emerging adults. For the vWMT, significant effects of age and sex were observed for path length in the target region (narrower spatial sampling), and heading error, with emerging adults performing better than adolescents, and an overall male advantage. For the MRT, males scored higher than females, but only in emerging adulthood. Overall, sex differences in visuospatial perception (MRT) emerge differently from those observed on a classic navigation task, with age and sex-specific superior vWMT performance likely related to the use of more efficient strategies. Importantly, these results extend the developmental timeline of spatial ability characterization to include adolescent males and females performing a virtual version of the classic vWMT.

KEYWORDS:

Adolescence; Emerging adulthood; Hippocampus; Sex differences; Spatial ability

PMID:
25464337
PMCID:
PMC4304985
DOI:
10.1016/j.beproc.2014.11.015
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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