Correlates of virtual navigation performance in older adults

Laura E. Korthauer, Nicole T. Nowak, Scott D. Moffat, Yang An, Laura M. Rowland, Peter B. Barker, Susan M. Resnick, Ira Driscoll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Despite considerable evidence for deleterious effects of aging on place learning and memory, less is known about the trajectory and the putative neural mechanisms of these decrements. The virtual Morris water task (vMWT) is a human analog of a nonhuman spatial navigation task. The present study investigated longitudinal changes in place learning in 51 healthy, nondemented adults (age 30-83 years) who completed the vMWT and a neuropsychological battery at 2 time-points (interval = ~8 years). We also assessed cross-sectional associations between vMWT and brain structure, biochemical integrity, and standardized neuropsychological measures in a subset of 22 individuals who underwent magnetic resonance imaging at follow-up. Despite no longitudinal decrement in vMWT performance, there were cross-sectional age differences on the vMWT favoring younger adults. Negative associations were observed between vMWT latency and gray matter volumes in the right hippocampus, bilateral thalamus, and right medial orbitofrontal cortex and between vMWT latency and white matter fractional anisotropy in the bilateral uncinate fasciculus. Collectively, these results suggest a pattern of differences in the structural integrity of regions supporting successful navigation even in the absence of longitudinal performance decrements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-127
Number of pages10
JournalNeurobiology of aging
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • DTI
  • Hippocampus
  • Memory
  • Normal aging
  • Place learning
  • Virtual navigation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Aging
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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