fMRI hippocampal activity during a virtual radial arm maze

Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2005 Sep;30(3):307-17. doi: 10.1007/s10484-005-6385-z.


Numerous studies have shown that the hippocampus is critical for spatial memory. Within nonhuman research, a task often used to assess spatial memory is the radial arm maze. Because of the spatial nature of this task, this maze is often used to assess the function of the hippocampus. Our goal was to extrapolate this task to humans and examine whether healthy undergraduates utilize their hippocampus while performing a virtual reality version of the radial arm maze task. Thirteen undergraduates performed a virtual radial arm maze during functional magnetic resonance imaging. The brain maps of activity reveal bilateral hippocampal BOLD signal changes during the performance of this task. However, paradoxically, this BOLD signal change decreases during the spatial memory component of the task. Additionally, we note frontal cortex activity reflective of working memory circuits. These data reveal that, as predicted by the rodent literature, the hippocampus is involved in performing the virtual radial arm maze in humans. Hence, this virtual reality version may be used to assess the integrity of hippocampus so as to predict risk or severity in a variety of psychiatric disorders.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Maze Learning*
  • Memory*
  • Mental Disorders
  • Space Perception
  • User-Computer Interface*