How do we get there? Effects of cognitive aging on route memory
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Research into the effects of cognitive aging on route navigation usually focuses on differences in learning performance. In contrast, we investigated age-related differences in route knowledge after successful route learning. One young and two groups of older adults categorized using different cut-off scores on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA), were trained until they could correctly recall short routes. During the test phase, they were asked to recall the sequence in which landmarks were encountered (Landmark Sequence Task), the sequence of turns (Direction Sequence Task), the direction of turn at each landmark (Landmark Direction Task), and to identify the learned routes from a map perspective (Perspective Taking Task). Comparing the young participant group with the older group that scored high on the MoCA, we found effects of typical aging in learning performance and in the Direction Sequence Task. Comparing the two older groups, we found effects of early signs of atypical aging in the Landmark Direction and the Perspective Taking Tasks. We found no differences between groups in the Landmark Sequence Task. Given that participants were able to recall routes after training, these results suggest that typical and early signs of atypical aging result in differential memory deficits for aspects of route knowledge.
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