Spatial navigation: a unique window into the aging mind

Spatial navigation is one of the most complex cognitive operations as it involves perceiving spatial information from multiple sensory cues, creating and maintaining spatial representations in short- and long-term memory, and using and manipulating these representations to guide navigational behavior. In surveys, elderly humans frequently report substantial decline in navigational abilities, for example problems with finding one’s way in complex environments, planning routes to distant locations and returning to the car after a trip to the supermarket. Such deficits severely restrict the mobility of elderly people and affect levels of (physical) activity and social participation, but the underlying behavioural and neuronal mechanisms are poorly understood.
In this talk, I will outline recent studies that have begun to elucidate the mechanisms behind age-related changes in navigational processing, using novel behavioural paradigms that target specific spatial computations. Importantly, these studies not only demonstrate that key navigational processes are particularly sensitive to the deleterious consequences of ageing, but they also offer novel insights into general mechanisms of brain ageing that could also affect processes beyond the spatial domain. I will conclude with an outlook into how technological advances could be used to rescue or even improve navigational abilities, which could ultimately have a large impact on the quality of life of the elderly.



Herr Prof. Dr. Thomas Wolbers
Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen (DZNE)


Montag, 29. April 2013, 16 Uhr c.t.


Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg G26.1-010 (Videoübertragung zur Universität Ulm, N27, Raum 2.033)