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Impact of healthy aging on spatial cognition. Spatial navigation and gaze dynamics in ecological conditions

Abstract : This doctoral work investigates the behavioural consequences of visual and cognitive aging within a spatial cognition framework. The key novelty is the use of ecological environments, which allows to test navigation in natural, yet controlled conditions. We show an age-related spatial reorganization, in which mental representations are preferentially anchored on geometric cues in older adults and on landmarks in young adults. Recording of gaze and body dynamics allowed us to identify oculomotor signatures that were predictive of the spatial coding preference. These results challenge the current view that focuses on egocentric versus allocentric strategies in aging, and question whether it is a matter of availability of spatial cues rather than strategy per se. We verified this prediction by showing that older adults, similarly to children, are as efficient as young adults at using allocentric strategies, given that their preferred cue (i.e. geometry) is available at the time of navigation decision. This work highlights the need for enriching the allocentric/egocentric framework, classically used to interpret the impact of healthy aging on spatial cognition, by integrating the spatial cue processing dimension. This enriched framework may be useful to develop innovative solutions to prevent/counteract the autonomy loss induced by visuo-spatial cognitive aging.
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Marcia Bécu. Impact of healthy aging on spatial cognition. Spatial navigation and gaze dynamics in ecological conditions. Neuroscience. Sorbonne Université, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018SORUS411⟩. ⟨tel-02862784⟩

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