Spatial Memory and Aging: Performance on a Human Analog of the Morris Water Maze

Mary C. Newman
Alfred W. Kaszniak

Abstract

Rodent studies demonstrate parallel age-related changes in spatial memory and the hippocampal formation. Converging cognitive, neuropsychological, and neurobiological evidence suggests similar changes in humans, although these correlates have not been studied in the same individuals. The purpose of the current project was to develop and validate a human analog of a rodent spatial memory task for future use in correlative studies of spatial memory and brain structure and function. Younger and older healthy adults studied the location of a target relative to distal cues in a large tent-like enclosure. Group performances were similar for the practice trial, which could be solved verbally, suggesting similar abilities to remember the configuration of multiple stimuli in a large space. However, on subsequent trials, which depended more upon spatial memory, older adults were impaired relative to their younger counterparts.