The Virtual Kite Arena Maze translates rodent-based kite arena assays for human application eliminating the limitations of animal models as well as allowing comparison of performances.

The virtual arenas included a kite arena, a rectangular arena, and a square arena. The arena walls could be changed to different colors as required by the experimental aim. The floor of the arenas was rendered as grass. Participants had a first-person view of the arena.

The maze was implemented on a personal computer, and participants controlled their movement in the maze using a keyboard.

Mazeengineers offers the Virtual Kite Arena Maze.

Request a Virtual Kite Arena Maze

Request a Virtual Kite Arena Maze

Price & Dimensions

Virtual Kite Arena Maze

$ 2290

+S&H
  • Perimeter of arenas: 72m
  • Length of short walls of kite arena and rectangular arena: 9m
  • Length of long walls of kite arena and rectangular arena: 27m
  • Obtuse angle in kite arena: 143.14°
  • Acute angle in kite arena: 36.86°
  • Length of walls of square arena: 18m.
  • Height of all walls: 2.5m

Documentation

Introduction

Navigation based tasks, such as the Morris Water Maze and the Barnes Maze, are popular animal assays that provide insights into cognitive functioning and impairments. Cognitive mapping of the arena during these tasks is often understood through the type of navigation strategy used. However, another factor that is debated to contribute to navigation is the encoding of the global shape of the arena. Studies, such as those by Cheng (1986) and Pearce, Good, Jones, and McGregor (2004), have tested animal’s ability to utilize local shape information in goal finding, and the transfer of shape-based information between two differently shaped arenas. Often these studies have revealed no influence of the global shape of the arena but of local landmarks on the animal’s reorientation.

The Virtual Kite Arena Maze translates rodent-based kite arena assays for human application eliminating the limitations of animal models as well as allowing comparison of performances. The virtual tasks usually involve other arenas along with the Kite arena to understand whether or not the global arena shape is utilized in human navigation. In comparison to its animal counterpart, the virtual environment is flexible and adaptable, thereby enabling more authentic behaviors from the participant. Additionally, using immersive virtual environments further facilitates the illusion of presence, which makes the task more realistic for the participants. (For more virtual mazes see Simian Virtual Reality Mazes).

Training protocol

Participants are informed of the experimental process beforehand. Participant’s comfortability with the virtual reality technology used is also noted as this could also be a potential influencer on the performance. Ancillary tests may also be part of the investigation.

The general protocol in assessing shape-based reorientation involves the use of virtual rectangular and virtual kite arenas. The assessment involves the following tasks,

  • Acquisition Trial: For the kite arena, set the hidden goal in one the right-angled corners. For the rectangle arena, set hidden goals in two corners diagonal to each other. Set the starting position of the participants in the center of the arena (halfway between the apex and obtuse corners for the kite arena). Randomize the direction the participant faces for each trial. Allow the participants to explore the arena until they find the hidden goal.
  • Transfer Trials: Following the acquisition trials, perform two 60-seconds, transfer trials without any hidden goals. Evaluate kite arena-trained participants in the rectangle arena and vice versa.

Protocols can be changed based on the requirements of the investigation.

Behavioral Observations and Task Data

Observed parameters and recorded data vary with the investigatory aims. In general, behavioral measures can include the following,

  • Latency to initiate the task
  • First choice
  • Percentage of correct choices
  • Percentage of incorrect choices
  • Navigation accuracy
  • Time spent in the correct zone
  • Time spent in the incorrect zone
  • Distance traveled
  • Trial duration
  • Frequency of backtracking
  • Navigation strategy used

Based on the requirements of the investigation, EEG data may also be recorded. Other measures (relevant to the investigation) may include assessment of stress, anxiety, and heart rate levels, among others. Ancillary questionnaires may also be used to further refine the data and the understanding of the task performance. (For digital healthcare research tools visit Qolty).

Literature Review

Evaluation of shape-based reorientation across arena boundaries

Objective:Buckley, Smith, and Haselgrove (2016a) investigated whether spatial reorientation involves encoding of the global shape of the arena. The experiments involved evaluation that included within arena navigation and outside arena boundary navigation.
Participants:Participants included groups of male and female students (aged between 10 to 41 years) that were divided into three experimental groups and within-experiment groups.
Maze Design:The virtual arenas were rendered for both within the arena and outside arena conditions. The inside of the maze had cream color walls, a wooden textured floor, and a dark grey ceiling. The outside of the maze had brick-patterned walls and was placed in a grass plain (780 × 780 m) under a black sky. Participants had a 45° field of view.

 

Both the kite arena and the rectangular arena had the same perimeter with the short walls measuring 9 m and the long walls measuring 27 m. All walls had a height of 2.5 m approximately. Additionally, the obtuse angle in the kite arena was 143.14°, while the acute angle was 36.86°. The hidden goals (signal-zone) in both arenas were placed at 2.48 m from the walls on the bisector of the right-angled corners. The goals were always within 1.08 × 1.08 m regions of the corners.

 

The maze was implemented on a personal computer, and participants controlled their movement in the maze using a keyboard.

Procedure:Experiment 1: Participants were trained to find the hidden goal in either the kite arena or the rectangular arena. Training conditions included within arena exploration or exploration outside the arena. The participants that were trained to navigate the inside of the arena were given a single test session, in the absence of a hidden goal, from the outside of the arena (120 seconds) and vice-versa (60 seconds), in the same arena.

 

Experiment 2: The training and testing conditions were the same as in experiment 1; However, instead of being tested for the same arena, kite arena trained participants were tested in the rectangular arena and vice-versa.

 

Experiment 3: Participants were trained to find the hidden goal from outside the kite or rectangular arena. Test trials involved exploration from outside the rectangular arena for participants trained in the kite arena and vice-versa.

Results:Across all experiments, participants displayed decreased latency to find the hidden goals in both arenas during the training trials; Particularly, participants in the rectangular arena were found to be quicker than the kite arena participants.

 

Participants were observed to spend significant time in the signal-zone in both arenas during the test trials of Experiment 1. However, when the task involved switching between arenas (Experiment 2), subjects displayed difficulty in finding the goal. While participants of the kite and rectangle arena were observed to spend more time in the correct and the incorrect zones than their counterparts, no significant difference could be observed in the time spent in either zones for both groups. Further assessment of the effect of arena shape on navigation (Experiment 3) suggested that the participants utilized the shared local geometric cues between the two arenas in order to locate the signal-zone.

 

Investigation of the effect of learning non-geometric cues on learning of geometric cues

Objective:Buckley, Smith, and Haselgrove (2016b) investigated Miller and Shettleworth’s (2008) model of spatial navigation in human participants navigating a virtual arena. The experiment aimed to assess whether learning of non-geometric cues would block or be blocked by geometric cues in a goal-finding task.
Participants:Participants included groups of male and female students (aged between 10 to 41 years) that were divided into three experimental groups and within-experiment groups.
Maze Design:The virtual arenas included a kite arena, a rectangular arena, and a square arena. The arena walls could be changed to different colors as required by the experimental aim. The floor of the arenas was rendered as grass. Participants had a first-person view of the arena.

 

All three arenas had the same perimeter of 72 m. Both the kite arena and the rectangular had short walls measuring 9 m and long walls measuring 27 m. Additionally, the obtuse angle in the kite arena was 143.14°, while the acute angle was 36.86°. The square arena had walls measuring 18 m. All walls had a height of 2.5 m approximately. The hidden in the arenas were placed at 2.48 m from the walls on the bisector of the right-angled corners. The goals were always within 1.08 × 1.08 m regions of the corners.

 

The maze was implemented on a personal computer, and participants controlled their movement in the maze using a keyboard.

Procedure:Experiment 1: Participants were trained in the kite or rectangular arena and were assessed in two 60 seconds transfer trials. The first trial assessed the ability to transfer the local shape-information when the arena shape was changed. The second trial, in addition to the changed arena shape, also had different colored walls (blue to cream and vice versa) than the training arena; this trial was performed to observe possible generalization decrement of the local shape-information transfer.

 

Experiment 2:  The experiment was designed to assess if learning of non-geometric cues (wall color) would block the learning of local geometric cues. Each session lasted 20 minutes and was composed of two training stages that were followed by test trials. In the first stage (16 trials), the participants were trained to in a square arena that had two adjacent cream walls, and two adjacent blue walls. A goal was placed in the corner where two differently colored walls intersected. Stage two (12 trials) was initiated immediately after stage one and was conducted in a rectangular arena having the same interior color as the square arena. For the blocked group, the goal position was indicated by the same corner composition as in stage 1. However, the goal position was changed to the diagonally opposite side to that of the square arena trials for the control group. Test trials (two 60 second trials) were conducted in a kite arena that was either uniformly cream color or blue color, with no hidden goals after 4 trials in the second stage and on completion of the second stage.

 

Experiment 3: The experiment was designed to assess if learning of local geometric cues would block the learning of non-geometric cues. Each session lasted 20 minutes and was composed of two training stages that were followed by test trials. In the first stage (16 trials), the participants were trained in a rectangle arena that was either uniformly pink or purple. The goal was located in the corner where a short wall was on the left of the long wall for half the participants, while for the rest, it was on the right. Following stage 1, participants performed 4 trials in a kite arena, which had purple-colored long walls and pink colored short walls for half of the participants, and vice versa for the rest. The goals were placed in the corner that had the same geometric feature as in the stage 1 rectangle arena goal (blocked group). For the control group, the goal location was in the corner that did not signal the location of the goal in the previous stage. Test trials (2 trials of 60 seconds), without hidden goals, were performed at the end of stage 2. One of the tests involved participants navigating a square arena that had two adjacent walls colored pink, and the other adjected walls colored purple (color test). The other test involved participants navigating a grey colored kite arena (shape test).

Results:Across all experiments, participants displayed a decreased latency to complete the task during the initial learning trials. Results of experiment 1 revealed that the rectangle arena trained group, regardless of test trial conditions, preferentially searched the correct zone. On the other hand, change in arena color resulted in the kite-arena trained group to display a reduced preference for the correct zone. Search time assessment revealed participants spending significant time in the incorrect zones in the wall color-change test trial as compared to only the arena-shape change test trial.

 

In stage 2 of experiment 2, in comparison to the controls, the blocked group was significantly faster in finding the goals. In the test trials, while the control group spent more time in the correct zones, the blocked group spent a relatively equal amount of time in both the correct and incorrect zone. The blocked group of experiment 3 also displayed a significantly faster time in locating the goal zone in comparison to the controls in stage 2. Color test trials performances showed the blocked group spending a relatively same amount of time in all zones of the arena as opposed to the control group that spent more time in the correct zone. On the other hand, in the shape test, both groups were observed to spend more time in the correct zone.

 

Assessment of navigation bias resulting from learned predictiveness training

Objective:Buckley, Smith, and Haselgrove (2015) compared the performances of landmark-trained group with that of the local geometrical cue-trained group in a navigation task to assess learned navigation bias in task performance.
Participants:Participants included male and female university students having a mean age of 20.83 years.

 

Participants were divided into gender-balanced groups of shape-relevant and landmark-relevant groups, randomly.

Maze Design:The experiments made use of two virtual arenas; kite and trapezium arenas. Both arenas had grass texture applied on the floor and 2.5 m cream-colored walls. The kite arena had short walls that measured 9 m and long walls that measured 27 m in lengths. The obtuse and acute angles measured 143.14° and 36.86°, respectively.

 

The trapezium arena had a base wall measuring 63 m with the smallest wall measuring 9 m and the two side walls measuring 27 m. The internal angles measured 48.19° and 131.81°. Four spherical (90 cm diameter) landmarks were placed at 1.48 m on the notional line that bisected the corner. Distinctly colored red spheres were used for the trapezium arena, while distinctly colored blue spheres were used for the kite arena. These landmarks hovered above the hidden goal that was an invisible 1.08 × 1.08 m regions.

 

The maze was implemented on a personal computer, and participants controlled their movement in the maze using a keyboard.

Procedure:Participants were trained in two stages, with the second stage consisting of three conflict trials. The first stage involved training in the kite arena for 24 trials. Goal location for the shape-relevant group was hinted by the corner of the arena, and the colored sphere for the land-relevant arena. The hidden goal location was counterbalanced across participants.

 

Stage two training was performed in the trapezium arena and consisted of 16 training trials and 3 conflict trials. The hidden goal was marked by the geometric cue as well as the associated red sphere for each participant. The conflict trials involved the rotation of the spheres to create a conflict between the two cues.

Results:Performances improved across trials in stage one with both groups requiring lesser time to find the hidden goal. While similar performance improvements were observed in stage two training trials, the landmark-relevant group performed relatively better than the shape-relevant group. In the conflict trials, both groups displayed a bias towards the cues that they were trained with. While the shape-relevant group displayed the bias during the third conflict, the bias was present in all three trials for the landmark-relevant group.

Investigation of search paradigm transfer between arenas

Objective:Lew et al. (2013) investigated whether goal searching strategies used in one arena would be transferred to another distinctly shaped arena. The arenas were designed to evaluate whether the search strategies relied on the global representation of the arena or on local geometric cues.
Participants:Participants included 20 male and 20 female university students with a mean age of 20.1 years.

 

Participants were divided into rectangle arena trained, and circular arena trained groups.

Maze Design:Three virtual arenas were rendered for the task, a rectangle arena, a circular arena, and a kite arena. The long walls of the rectangle arena measured 10 m while the short walls measured 5m. The kite-arena shared the dimensions for the long and short walls as the rectangle arena. The circular arena had a diameter of 10 m. The rectangular and circular arena were used in the training phase and had a 0.3 m diameter hidden goal positioned 1.6 m from the corner and the wall, respectively. The position of the goals remained constant throughout trials.

 

All arenas had uniform red-colored walls with a grey floor. The ceiling of the arena was sky blue. No cues were present within or outside the arenas.

 

The maze was implemented on a personal computer, and participants controlled their movement in the maze using a keyboard.

Procedure:Participants of both training groups underwent 12 trials of 60 seconds each in their arenas. All participants started the task facing the walls of the arena; in the rectangle arena, the start positions were the midpoints each wall, and in the circular arena, the cardinal points of the arena were used. The start positions were randomized for each trial such that each start position was used once every 4 trials. For participants that failed to locate the goal within the allocated time, a red column was presented at the goal location, which the participants had to walk towards. Immediately after the last training trial, participants were tested in the kite arena without notice. The test trial had no hidden goals and lasted 60 seconds.
Results:Analysis of training performances revealed some effect of gender and training block, though they were not significant. Rectangular arena trained men, in comparison to the corresponding circular arena group, were faster in block 1 of the training. On the other hand, block 2 performances of women in a circular arena group were slower than their male counterparts. Regardless, all participants displayed improved escape latencies as the training progressed.

 

In the kite arena test trials, the rectangle arena trained group spent more time in the corner that had some local geometric features similar to the goal location of the trained arena. However, this was not the case for circular arena trained participants that were observed spending more time in the acute corner. Based on these observations, it was suggested that the participant’s spatial navigation pattern was transferred based on local geometric cues rather than the global representation of the arenas.

References

  1. *Buckley, M. G., Smith, A. D., & Haselgrove, M. (2016a). Thinking outside of the box: Transfer of shape-based reorientation across the boundary of an arena. Cognitive Psychology, 87, 53–87. doi:10.1016/j.cogpsych.2016.04.001
  2. Buckley, M. G., Smith, A. D., & Haselgrove, M. (2014). Shape shifting: Local landmarks interfere with navigation by, and recognition of, global shape. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 40(2), 492–510. doi:10.1037/a0034901
  3. Buckley, M. G., Smith, A. D., & Haselgrove, M. (2015). Learned predictiveness training modulates biases towards using boundary or landmark cues during navigation. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 68(6), 1183–1202. doi:10.1080/17470218.2014.977925
  4. Buckley, M.G., Smith, A.D. and Haselgrove, M. (2016b). Blocking spatial navigation across environments that have a different shape. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition., 42(1):51-66. doi: 10.1037/xan0000084.
  5. Cheng, K. (1986). A purely geometric module in the rat’s spatial representation. Cognition, 23(2):149-78.
  6. Cheng, K. (2008). Whither geometry? Troubles of the geometric module. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12(9), 355–361. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2008.06.004
  7. Lew, A. R., Usherwood, B., Fragkioudaki, F., Koukoumi, V., Smith, S. P., Austen, J. M., & McGregor, A. (2013). Transfer of spatial search between environments in human adults and young children (Homo sapiens): Implications for representation of local geometry by spatial systems. Developmental Psychobiology, 56(3), 421–434. doi:10.1002/dev.21109
  8. Miller, N. Y., & Shettleworth, S. J. (2008). An associative model of geometry learning: A modified choice rule. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 34, 419–422. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0097-7403.34.3.419
  9. Pearce, J. M., Good, M. A., Jones, P. M., & McGregor, A. (2004). Transfer of Spatial Behavior Between Different Environments: Implications for Theories of Spatial Learning and for the Role of the Hippocampus in Spatial Learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Behavior Processes, 30(2), 135–147. doi:10.1037/0097-7403.30.2.135