Faculté des sciences

Spatial relational learning and memory abilities do not differ between men and women in a real-world, open-field environment

Banta Lavenex, Pamela A. ; Lavenex, Pierre

In: Behavioural Brain Research, 2010, vol. 207, no. 1, p. 125-137

This study assesses gender differences in spatial and non-spatial relational learning and memory in adult humans behaving freely in a real-world, open-field environment. In Experiment 1, we tested the use of proximal landmarks as conditional cues allowing subjects to predict the location of rewards hidden in one of two sets of three distinct locations. Subjects were tested in two different... Plus

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    Summary
    This study assesses gender differences in spatial and non-spatial relational learning and memory in adult humans behaving freely in a real-world, open-field environment. In Experiment 1, we tested the use of proximal landmarks as conditional cues allowing subjects to predict the location of rewards hidden in one of two sets of three distinct locations. Subjects were tested in two different conditions: (1) when local visual cues marked the potentially-rewarded locations, and (2) when no local visual cues marked the potentially-rewarded locations. We found that only 17 of 20 adults (8 males, 9 females) used the proximal landmarks to predict the locations of the rewards. Although females exhibited higher exploratory behavior at the beginning of testing, males and females discriminated the potentially-rewarded locations similarly when local visual cues were present. Interestingly, when the spatial and local information conflicted in predicting the reward locations, males considered both spatial and local information, whereas females ignored the spatial information. However, in the absence of local visual cues females discriminated the potentially-rewarded locations as well as males. In Experiment 2, subjects (9 males, 9 females) were tested with three asymmetrically-arranged rewarded locations, which were marked by local cues on alternate trials. Again, females discriminated the rewarded locations as well as males in the presence or absence of local cues. In sum, although particular aspects of task performance might differ between genders, we found no evidence that women have poorer allocentric spatial relational learning and memory abilities than men in a real-world, open-field environment.