Developmental Gender Differences in Children in a Virtual Spatial Memory Task

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Abstract

Objective:

Behavioral achievements are the product of brain maturation. During postnatal development, the medial temporal lobe completes its maturation, and children acquire new memory abilities. In recent years, virtual reality-based tasks have been introduced in the neuropsychology field to assess different cognitive functions. In this work, desktop virtual reality tasks are combined with classic psychometric tests to assess spatial abilities in 4- to 10-year-old children.

Method:

Fifty boys and 50 girls 4–10-years of age participated in this study. Spatial reference memory and spatial working memory were assessed using a desktop virtual reality-based task. Other classic psychometric tests were also included in this work (e.g., the Corsi Block Tapping Test, digit tests, 10/36 Spatial Recall Test).

Results:

In general terms, 4- and 5-year-old groups showed poorer performance than the older groups. However, 5-year-old children showed basic spatial navigation abilities with little difficulty. In addition, boys outperformed girls from the 6–8-year-old groups. Gender differences only emerged in the reference-memory version of the spatial task, whereas both sexes displayed similar performances in the working-memory version.

Conclusion:

There was general improvement in the performance of different tasks in children older than 5 years. However, results also suggest that brain regions involved in allocentric memory are functional even at the age of 5. In addition, the brain structures underlying reference memory mature later in girls than those required for the working memory.

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