Application of Virtual Reality in Spatial Memory

A special issue of Brain Sciences (ISSN 2076-3425). This special issue belongs to the section "Behavioral Neuroscience".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2021) | Viewed by 23102

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
Department of Psychology and Health Research Center, Universidad de Almería, 04120 Almeria, Spain
Interests: spatial memory; virtual reality; hippocampus; gender differnces; aging
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Guest Editor
Department of Psychology, University of Bologna, Viale Berti Pichat 5, 40127 Bologna, Italy
Interests: individual differences; navigational memory; topographical memory; environmental memory; witnessing and reasoning
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In recent decades, the development of virtual reality technologies has impacted different scientific fields, including Neuroscience. Thanks to virtual reality-based tasks, assessments of human behaviour have been improved. Spatial memory, traditionally studied in animal models, has gained much attention since virtual tasks make possible the controlled assessment of human behaviour under many different experimental conditions.

In the last few years, many different spatial tasks and studies have been developed, focussing on several aspects that contribute to spatial orientation and its neural underpinnings. Pathologies and lifestyle, as well as age and gender, are reflected in spatial skills. In this context, we encourage researchers to provide papers that decipher the variables that could affect human spatial memory, from behavioural to neuroimaging studies.

Prof. Dr. Jose Manuel Cimadevilla
Dr. Raffaella Nori
Dr. Laura Piccardi
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • spatial orientation
  • navigation
  • spatial strategies
  • medial temporal lobe

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Editorial

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4 pages, 216 KiB  
Editorial
Application of Virtual Reality in Spatial Memory
by José Manuel Cimadevilla, Raffaella Nori and Laura Piccardi
Brain Sci. 2023, 13(12), 1621; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci13121621 - 23 Nov 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1777
Abstract
In recent years, virtual reality (VR) has become a widely used tool with a plethora of applications in neuroscience [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Virtual Reality in Spatial Memory)

Research

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18 pages, 1810 KiB  
Article
Development of Landmark Use for Navigation in Children: Effects of Age, Sex, Working Memory and Landmark Type
by Anne H. van Hoogmoed, Joost Wegman, Danielle van den Brink and Gabriele Janzen
Brain Sci. 2022, 12(6), 776; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci12060776 - 13 Jun 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1826
Abstract
The use of landmarks for navigation develops throughout childhood. Here, we examined the developmental trajectory of egocentric and allocentric navigation based on landmark information in an on-screen virtual environment in 39 5–6-year-olds, 43 7–8-year-olds, and 41 9–10-year-olds. We assessed both categorical performance, indicating [...] Read more.
The use of landmarks for navigation develops throughout childhood. Here, we examined the developmental trajectory of egocentric and allocentric navigation based on landmark information in an on-screen virtual environment in 39 5–6-year-olds, 43 7–8-year-olds, and 41 9–10-year-olds. We assessed both categorical performance, indicating the notion of location changes based on the landmarks, as well as metrical performance relating to the precision of the representation of the environment. We investigated whether age, sex, spatial working memory, verbal working memory, and verbal production of left and right contributed to the development of navigation skills. In egocentric navigation, Categorical performance was already above chance at 5 years of age and was positively related to visuo-spatial working memory and the production of left/right, whereas metrical performance was only related to age. Allocentric navigation started to develop between 5 and 8 years of age and was related to sex, with boys outperforming girls. Both boys and girls seemed to rely more on directional landmark information as compared to positional landmark information. To our knowledge, this study is the first to give insight into the relative contribution of different cognitive abilities to navigation skills in school-aged children. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Virtual Reality in Spatial Memory)
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14 pages, 1320 KiB  
Article
Spatial Learning in a Virtual Environment: The Role of Self-Efficacy Feedback and Individual Visuospatial Factors
by Laura Miola, Veronica Muffato, Chiara Meneghetti and Francesca Pazzaglia
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(9), 1185; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11091185 - 9 Sep 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1869
Abstract
We examined the roles self-efficacy plays in environmental learning in terms of self-efficacy feedback and task-specific (navigation-based) self-efficacy. We manipulated self-efficacy using positive and neutral feedback to investigate the relationship between receiving positive feedback and environmental learning performance and subsequent recall. A total [...] Read more.
We examined the roles self-efficacy plays in environmental learning in terms of self-efficacy feedback and task-specific (navigation-based) self-efficacy. We manipulated self-efficacy using positive and neutral feedback to investigate the relationship between receiving positive feedback and environmental learning performance and subsequent recall. A total of 231 participants were administered visuospatial tasks, where 117 received positive feedback, and 114 received neutral feedback. Then, we tested environmental learning using route retracing, pointing, and map-completion tasks. Before each environmental task, participants evaluated their task-specific self-efficacy. A series of spatial self-reported preferences were gathered as well. Mediation models showed that receiving positive feedback after a visuospatial task influences environmental recall performance through the mediation of task-specific self-efficacy. Moreover, after accounting for experimental manipulation and gender, we found that task-specific self-efficacy, sense of direction, and visuospatial abilities influence spatial-recall task performance, even with some differences as a function of the specific recall tasks considered. Overall, our findings suggest that among individual characteristics, task-specific self-efficacy can sustain environmental learning. Furthermore, giving positive feedback can improve spatial self-efficacy before conducting spatial-recall tasks. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Virtual Reality in Spatial Memory)
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20 pages, 2116 KiB  
Article
Sex Differences and the Role of Gaming Experience in Spatial Cognition Performance in Primary School Children: An Exploratory Study
by Claudia van Dun, Alex van Kraaij, Joost Wegman, Jorrit Kuipers, Esther Aarts and Gabriele Janzen
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(7), 886; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11070886 - 1 Jul 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2744
Abstract
Sex differences are repeatedly observed in spatial cognition tasks. However, the role of environmental factors such as gaming experience remains unclear. In this exploratory study, navigation and object-relocation were combined in a naturalistic virtual reality-based spatial task. The sample consisted of n = [...] Read more.
Sex differences are repeatedly observed in spatial cognition tasks. However, the role of environmental factors such as gaming experience remains unclear. In this exploratory study, navigation and object-relocation were combined in a naturalistic virtual reality-based spatial task. The sample consisted of n = 53 Dutch children aged 9–11 years. Overall, girls (n = 24) and boys (n = 29) performed equally accurately, although there was an increase in accuracy with age for boys (ηp2 = 0.09). Boys navigated faster than girls (ηp2 = 0.29), and this difference increased with age (ηp2 = 0.07). More gaming experience in boys versus girls (Cohen’s d = 0.88) did not explain any result observed. We encourage future confirmatory studies to use the paradigm presented here to investigate the current results in a larger sample. These findings could be beneficial for optimizing spatial cognition training interventions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Virtual Reality in Spatial Memory)
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16 pages, 1039 KiB  
Article
The Fear to Move in a Crowded Environment. Poor Spatial Memory Related to Agoraphobic Disorder
by Micaela Maria Zucchelli, Laura Piccardi and Raffaella Nori
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(6), 796; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11060796 - 16 Jun 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 3013
Abstract
Individuals with agoraphobia exhibit impaired exploratory activity when navigating unfamiliar environments. However, no studies have investigated the contribution of visuospatial working memory (VSWM) in these individuals’ ability to acquire and process spatial information while considering the use of egocentric and allocentric coordinates or [...] Read more.
Individuals with agoraphobia exhibit impaired exploratory activity when navigating unfamiliar environments. However, no studies have investigated the contribution of visuospatial working memory (VSWM) in these individuals’ ability to acquire and process spatial information while considering the use of egocentric and allocentric coordinates or environments with or without people. A total of 106 individuals (53 with agoraphobia and 53 controls) navigated in a virtual square to acquire spatial information that included the recognition of landmarks and the relationship between landmarks and themselves (egocentric coordinates) and independent of themselves (allocentric coordinates). Half of the participants in both groups navigated in a square without people, and half navigated in a crowded square. They completed a VSWM test in addition to tasks measuring landmark recognition and egocentric and allocentric judgements concerning the explored square. The results showed that individuals with agoraphobia had reduced working memory only when active processing of spatial elements was required, suggesting that they exhibit spatial difficulties particularly in complex spatial tasks requiring them to process information simultaneously. Specifically, VSWM deficits mediated the relationship between agoraphobia and performance in the allocentric judgements. The results are discussed considering the theoretical background of agoraphobia in order to provide useful elements for the early diagnosis of this disorder. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Virtual Reality in Spatial Memory)
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17 pages, 1035 KiB  
Article
Navigating in Virtual Environments: Does a Map or a Map-Based Description Presented Beforehand Help?
by Chiara Meneghetti and Francesca Pazzaglia
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(6), 773; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11060773 - 10 Jun 2021
Cited by 6 | Viewed by 2805
Abstract
Background. One of the aims of research in spatial cognition is to examine the factors capable of optimizing environment learning from navigation, which can be examined using a virtual environment (VE). Different learning conditions can play an important part. Aim. This study examined [...] Read more.
Background. One of the aims of research in spatial cognition is to examine the factors capable of optimizing environment learning from navigation, which can be examined using a virtual environment (VE). Different learning conditions can play an important part. Aim. This study examined the benefits of presenting configured information (layout with elements arranged in it) using a map or verbal description before a learner navigates in a new environment. Method. Ninety participants were assigned to three learning groups of 30 individuals (15 males and 15 females). Before participants navigated in a VE, one group was shown a map of the environment (“map before navigation”), a second group read a map-like description of the environment (“description before navigation”), and a third group started navigating without any prior input (“only navigation”). Participants then learned a path in a VE (presented as if they were driving a car). Their recall was subsequently tested using three types of task: (i) route retracing; (ii) pointing; (iii) path drawing. Several measures were administered to assess participants’ individual visuospatial and verbal factors. Results. There were no differences between the three groups in route retracing. The “map before navigation” group performed better than the “only navigation” group in both the pointing and the path drawing tasks, however, and also outperformed the “description before navigation” group in the path drawing task. Some relations emerged between participants’ individual difference factors and their recall performance. Conclusions. In learning from navigation, seeing a map beforehand benefits learning accuracy. Recall performance is also supported, at least in part, by individual visuospatial and verbal factors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Virtual Reality in Spatial Memory)
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16 pages, 3758 KiB  
Article
Sex Differences in Spatial Memory: Comparison of Three Tasks Using the Same Virtual Context
by Laura Tascón, Carmen Di Cicco, Laura Piccardi, Massimiliano Palmiero, Alessia Bocchi and José Manuel Cimadevilla
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(6), 757; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11060757 - 7 Jun 2021
Cited by 11 | Viewed by 2778
Abstract
Spatial memory has been studied through different instruments and tools with different modalities of administration. The cognitive load varies depending on the measure used and it should be taken into account to correctly interpret results. The aim of this research was to analyze [...] Read more.
Spatial memory has been studied through different instruments and tools with different modalities of administration. The cognitive load varies depending on the measure used and it should be taken into account to correctly interpret results. The aim of this research was to analyze how men and women perform three different spatial memory tasks with the same spatial context but with different cognitive demands. A total of 287 undergraduate students from the University of Almeria (Spain) and the University of L’Aquila (Italy) participated in the study. They were divided into three groups balanced by sex according to the spatial memory test they performed: the Walking Space Boxes Room Task (WSBRT), the Almeria Spatial Memory Recognition Test (ASMRT) and the Non-Walking Space Boxes Room Task (NWSBRT). Time spent and number of errors/correct answers were registered for analysis. In relation to the WSBRT and the ASMRT, men were faster and reached the optimal level of performance before women. In the three tests, familiarity with the spatial context helped to reduce the number of errors, regardless of the level of difficulty. In conclusion, sex differences were determined by the familiarity with the spatial context, the difficulty level of the task, the active or passive role of the participant and the amount of visual information provided in each screen shot. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Virtual Reality in Spatial Memory)
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12 pages, 1680 KiB  
Article
The Role of Gender and Familiarity in a Modified Version of the Almeria Boxes Room Spatial Task
by Alessia Bocchi, Massimiliano Palmiero, Jose Manuel Cimadevilla Redondo, Laura Tascón, Raffaella Nori and Laura Piccardi
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(6), 681; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11060681 - 22 May 2021
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 2035
Abstract
Individual factors like gender and familiarity can affect the kind of environmental representation that a person acquires during spatial navigation. Men seem to prefer relying on map-like survey representations, while women prefer using sequential route representations. Moreover, a good familiarity with the environment [...] Read more.
Individual factors like gender and familiarity can affect the kind of environmental representation that a person acquires during spatial navigation. Men seem to prefer relying on map-like survey representations, while women prefer using sequential route representations. Moreover, a good familiarity with the environment allows more complete environmental representations. This study was aimed at investigating gender differences in two different object-position learning tasks (i.e., Almeria Boxes Tasks) assuming a route or a survey perspective also considering the role of environmental familiarity. Two groups of participants had to learn the position of boxes placed in a virtual room. Participants had several trials, so that familiarity with the environment could increase. In both tasks, the effects of gender and familiarity were found, and only in the route perspective did an interaction effect emerge. This suggests that gender differences can be found regardless of the perspective taken, with men outperforming women in navigational tasks. However, in the route task, gender differences appeared only at the initial phase of learning, when the environment was unexplored, and disappeared when familiarity with the environment increased. This is consistent with studies showing that familiarity can mitigate gender differences in spatial tasks, especially in more complex ones. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Virtual Reality in Spatial Memory)
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Review

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18 pages, 647 KiB  
Review
Application of Real and Virtual Radial Arm Maze Task in Human
by Tommaso Palombi, Laura Mandolesi, Fabio Alivernini, Andrea Chirico and Fabio Lucidi
Brain Sci. 2022, 12(4), 468; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci12040468 - 31 Mar 2022
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 2821
Abstract
Virtual Reality (VR) emerges as a promising technology capable of creating different scenarios in which the body, environment, and brain are closely related, proving enhancements in the diagnosis and treatment of several spatial memory deficits. In recent years, human spatial navigation has increasingly [...] Read more.
Virtual Reality (VR) emerges as a promising technology capable of creating different scenarios in which the body, environment, and brain are closely related, proving enhancements in the diagnosis and treatment of several spatial memory deficits. In recent years, human spatial navigation has increasingly been studied in interactive virtual environments. However, navigational tasks are still not completely adapted in immersive 3D VR systems. We stipulate that an immersive Radial Arm Maze (RAM) is an excellent instrument, allowing the participants to be physically active within the maze exactly as in the walking RAM version in reality modality. RAM is a behavioral ecological task that allows the analyses of different facets of spatial memory, distinguishing declarative components from procedural ones. In addition to describing the characteristics of RAM, we will also analyze studies in which RAM has been used in virtual modality to provide suggestions into RAM building in immersive modality. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Application of Virtual Reality in Spatial Memory)
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