An automated protocol for quantitative analysis of spatial memory, learning and decision making in normal and pathological states.
Spatial orientation disorders constitute a major problem in aged subjects. Being able to dissociate the different cognitive strategies used for spatial navigation might help in the early detection of age-related brain dysfunctions.
Spatial navigation calls upon mnemonic capabilities (e.g. remembering the location of a rewarding site) as well as adaptive motor control (e.g. fine tuning of the trajectory according to the ongoing sensory context).
To study this complex process by means of behavioral measurements it is necessary to quantify a large set of meaningful parameters on multiple time scales (from milliseconds to several minutes), and to compare them across different paradigms. Moreover, the issue of automating the behavioral analysis is critical to cope with the consequent computational load and the sophistication of the measurements.
The solution is an automated protocol for quantitative analysis of spatial memory, learning and decision making in normal and pathological states. It relies on the analysis of human navigation behavior in a virtual Starmaze environment.