Chloe Lopez

UC Santa Barbara
CCS Biochemistry

Investigating Differences in Degrees Traveled as a Measure of Path Integration in Spatial Navigation between Age and Sex

Spatial navigation is the most fundamental behavior carried out by an animal and involves going from one location to another in a given environment. One form of spatial navigation is called path integration, which involves updating one’s position and trajectory using proprioceptive cues. Current research studies have shown that the effects of age and sex impact different aspects of spatial navigation such as strategy use, navigation efficiency, and route selection. However, the impact of age and sex differences on path integration is unknown. A replication of a study using a loop closure task, a measure of path integration, was conducted to investigate if the effects of age and sex impact path integration using degrees traveled on a circle as the primary measure. Participants were immersed into a desert landscape using a virtual reality simulation and walk along different circles of varying radii (0.5 -3.0 meters). The task requires participants to mentally update their position relative to their motion to determine when they have reached their starting location again. 89 participants, aged 18-61(43 males and 46 females), took part in the study. The results revealed that there were no significant main effects or interaction effects of age or sex at the 1.0 mand 3.0 m radius circles. For the 2.0 m radius circle, there was no main effect of age or age and sex interaction, but there was a statistically significant main effect of sex. It is hypothesized that the 2.0 m radius circle best gauged participants in their environment, whereas the 1.0 and 3.0 m provided for more errors in degrees traveled. Future studies will build on this behavioral data to examine whether age-related changes in spatial navigation, including path integration, are related to neuronal changes in the brain’s navigation circuitry.

UC Santa Barbara Center for Science and Engineering Partnerships UCSB California NanoSystems Institute