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Behavioural Neurology
Volume 19 (2008), Issue 1-2, Pages 81-85

The Use of Virtual Environments for Survey Spatial Ability Evaluation in Topographical Disorientation

Francesca Morganti,1,2 Maria Luisa Rusconi,3 Anna Paladino,4 Giuliano Geminiani,5 and Antonella Carassa2

1Applied Technology for Neuro-Psychology Lab, Istituto Auxologico Italiano, Milano, Italy
2Institute of Psychology and Sociology of Communication, University of Lugano, Lugano, Switzerland
3Department of Human Science, University of Bergamo, Bergamo, Italy
4Department of Neurological Science, University of Milan, Milan, Italy
5Department of Psychology, University of Torino, Turin, Italy

Received 31 March 2008; Accepted 31 March 2008

Copyright © 2008 Hindawi Publishing Corporation and the authors. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Due to their interactivity and to the sense of presence they afford, virtual environments constitute an interesting opportunity to study spatial cognition. In accordance with this perspective, we aimed to introduce a spatial test in virtual simulation in order to investigate the survey spatial ability in patients with topographical disorientation. To do this, we used the “planning in advance task” in a virtual environment that constitutes an effective procedure to experimentally evaluate survey maps. With this procedure we present the single case of a woman, with a right medial temporal lobe lesion, who shows a selective impairment in the acquisition of new spatial relationships. The patient’s performance in “planning in advance task” was compared with that of a control group made up of 40 female subjects matched for age and education. Results show how the patient revealed a significantly lower spatial performance when compared to the control group, demonstrating an inability to solve survey-type spatial tasks in complex virtual environments.