P1vital CNS Experimental Medicine : ARENA VIRTUAL MAZE MODEL

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Using virtual reality researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry led by Prof Robin Morris and Prof Michael Brammer have developed a human analogue of the frequently used preclinical test of hippocampal dependent spatial working memory, the Morris Water Maze.

The ‘Arena Task’ has convincingly demonstrated bilateral hippocampal activation in humans, using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) (Parslow et al., 2001). More recently it has been shown that in this task healthy elderly male subjects, average age 72 years, perform significantly less well and have reduced hippocampal activation compared to healthy young males (average age 26 years).

Similarly in a cross-over study healthy young male volunteers perform significantly less well and have reduced hippocampal activation when treated with scopolamine compared to placebo treatment. Currently a human virtual reality analogue (‘the Platform task’) of another frequently used preclinical test of hippocampal dependent spatial working memory the Olton Radial Arm maze is being established and validated.