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Spatial Navigation in Typical and Atypical Development

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The ability to navigate in space is a crucial element of human and animal development, allowing an organism to recognise its location, explore and learn routes. Navigation can be achieved using a variety of strategies such as remembering a sequence of body turns along a route, or by using landmarks and their ...

The ability to navigate in space is a crucial element of human and animal development, allowing an organism to recognise its location, explore and learn routes. Navigation can be achieved using a variety of strategies such as remembering a sequence of body turns along a route, or by using landmarks and their spatial relations to form a cognitive map of the environment.
Whilst we also welcome submissions which present research on typical development, we are particularly interested in submissions which focus on the development of spatial navigation in atypical development. In atypically developing groups, navigation strategies can be hampered by deficits not only in spatial cognition, but in executive function, motor or perceptual abilities. Navigation deficits in atypical groups can lead to difficulties with access to education and employment, and social inclusion; therefore understanding the nature of spatial navigation in atypical development is a crucial step towards remediation of difficulties, with downstream impact on social and mental well-being. Many atypically developing groups (such as individuals with Down Syndrome) have received little research attention or only anecdotal evidence that deficits exist, in spite of the impact that poor spatial navigation ability can have on daily functioning.
An interesting aspect of navigation research in both typical and atypical development is the variety of research methods that can be employed; as such this field presents an exciting area for multidisciplinary groups to contribute to. For example contributions can be made by Psychology, Geography, Computer Science, Neurobiology and Architecture. Previous research has implemented adaptations of classic animal studies such as the Morris Water Maze or the Radial Arm Maze, as well as real-world navigation and use of virtual computer-based indoor and outdoor environments. We welcome discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of particular methods; for example discussion over whether virtual environments, which are easy to experimentally manipulate and provide a safe setting for testing, capture ability in the same way as real-world environments.
Research in spatial navigation also offers the opportunity to take theoretical understanding of route learning to develop real-world interventions for deficits in navigation. Work from our own lab has revealed that this can be a complex task and so we welcome submissions that represent both successful and unsuccessful attempts at navigation training, with the hope that this can stimulate ideas and debate within the field. The rise in the use of mobile technology such as embedded satellite-navigation in mobile telephones and downloadable apps for tablet computers means that this is an exciting time for assistive technology for wayfinding, making assistance readily available to individuals that may struggle with independent travel.
This collection of new experimental research, theoretical reviews, general commentaries and opinion articles is intended to further our understanding of spatial navigation in both typically and atypically developing humans and animal models in terms of research methods and the nature of deficits in atypically developing groups. These deficits could include, but are not limited to, neural activation, motor aspects of navigating in space, use of navigational aids, cognition and perception. We particularly welcome submissions that attempt to remediate difficulties in navigation and route learning using virtual environments, real-world training or assistive technology.


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