Peer-Reviewed Journal Details
Mandatory Fields
Commins S;Duffin J;Chaves K;Leahy D;Corcoran K;Caffrey M;Keenan L;Finan D;Thornberry C;
Behavior Research Methods
NavWell: A simplified virtual-reality platform for spatial navigation and memory experiments.
Optional Fields
Being able to navigate, recall important locations, and find the way home are critical skills, essential for survival for both humans and animals. These skills can be examined in the laboratory using the Morris water maze, often considered the gold standard test of animal navigation. In this task, animals are required to locate and recall the location of an escape platform hidden in a pool filled with water. Because animals can not see the platform directly, they must use various landmarks in the environment to escape. With recent advances in technology and virtual reality (VR), many tasks originally used in the animal literature can now be translated for human studies. The virtual water maze task is no exception. However, a number of issues are associated with these mazes, including cost, lack of flexibility, and lack of standardization in terms of experimental designs and procedures. Here we present a virtual water maze system (NavWell) that is readily downloadable and free to use. The system allows for the easy design of experiments and the testing of participants on a desktop computer or fully immersive VR environment. The data from four independent experiments are presented in order to validate the software. From these experiments, a set of procedures for use with a number of well-known memory tests is suggested. This potentially can help with the standardization of navigational research and with navigational testing in the clinic or in an educational environment. Finally, we discuss the limitations of the software and plans for its development and future use.
Grant Details