Environmental topography and postural control demands shape aging-associated decrements in spatial navigation performance

Psychol Aging. 2005 Dec;20(4):683-694. doi: 10.1037/0882-7974.20.4.683.


This study tests the hypothesis that aging-induced cognitive permeation of sensorimotor functions contributes to adult age differences in spatial navigation performance. Virtual maze-like museums were projected in front of a treadmill. Sixteen 20-30-year-old men and sixteen 60-70-year-old men performed a way-finding task in city-block or variable topographies while walking with or without support. Walking support attenuated age-related decrements in navigational learning. Navigation load increased trunk-angle variability for older adults only. Age differences in spatial knowledge persisted despite perfect place-finding performance. City-block topography was easier than variable topography for younger adults only, indicating age-related differences in reliance on spatial relational learning. Attempts at supporting older adults' navigation performance should consider sensorimotor/cognitive interactions and qualitative differences in navigational activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Environment*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / diagnosis
  • Memory Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Psychomotor Disorders / diagnosis
  • Psychomotor Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors
  • Space Perception*
  • Spatial Behavior*