Performance on a Virtual Reality Spatial Memory Navigation Task in Depressed Patients

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Abstract

Objective

Findings on spatial memory in depression have been inconsistent. A navigation task based on virtual reality may provide a more sensitive and consistent measure of the hippocampal-related spatial memory deficits associated with depression.

Method

Performance on a novel virtual reality navigation task and a traditional measure of spatial memory was assessed in 30 depressed patients (unipolar and bipolar) and 19 normal comparison subjects.

Results

Depressed patients performed significantly worse than comparison subjects on the virtual reality task, as assessed by the number of locations found in the virtual town. Between-group differences were not detected on the traditional measure. The navigation task showed high test-retest reliability.

Conclusions

Depressed patients performed worse than healthy subjects on a novel spatial memory task. Virtual reality navigation may provide a consistent, sensitive measure of cognitive deficits in patients with affective disorders, representing a mechanism to study a putative endophenotype for hippocampal function.

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