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Executive and memory correlates of age-related differences in wayfinding performances using a virtual reality application.

  • Taillade, Mathieu
  • Sauzéon, Hélène
  • Dejos, Marie
  • Pala, Prashant Arvind
  • Larrue, Florian
  • Wallet, Grégory
  • Gross, Christian
  • N'Kaoua, Bernard
Published Article
Neuropsychology, development, and cognition. Section B, Aging, neuropsychology and cognition
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2013
DOI: 10.1080/13825585.2012.706247
PMID: 22901081


The aim of this study was to evaluate in large-scale spaces wayfinding and spatial learning difficulties for older adults in relation to the executive and memory decline associated with aging. We compared virtual reality (VR)-based wayfinding and spatial memory performances between young and older adults. Wayfinding and spatial memory performances were correlated with classical measures of executive and visuo-spatial memory functions, but also with self-reported estimates of wayfinding difficulties. We obtained a significant effect of age on wayfinding performances but not on spatial memory performances. The overall correlations showed significant correlations between the wayfinding performances and the classical measures of both executive and visuo-spatial memory, but only when the age factor was not partialled out. Also, older adults underestimated their wayfinding difficulties. A significant relationship between the wayfinding performances and self-reported wayfinding difficulty estimates is found, but only when the age effect was partialled out. These results show that, even when older adults have an equivalent spatial knowledge to young adults, they had greater difficulties with the wayfinding task, supporting an executive decline view in age-related wayfinding difficulties. However, the correlation results are in favor of both the memory and executive decline views as mediators of age-related differences in wayfinding performances. This is discussed in terms of the relationships between memory and executive functioning in wayfinding task orchestration. Our results also favor the use of objective assessments of everyday navigation difficulties in virtual applications, instead of self-reported questionnaires, since older adults showed difficulties in estimating their everyday wayfinding problems.


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