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Spatial Memory


The Qolty Mobile Assessments utilizes the Apple ResearchKit™ framework  to define a large number of predefined tasks in six broad categories: motor activities, fitness, cognition, voice, audio, and hand dexterity. We utilize these functions for your use in your study, making it easy to capture objectively reported data from your patients.

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Spatial Memory involves the hippocampus and surrounding medial temporal lobes of the brain. The spatial memory is responsible for recording and retrieving information of an individual’s environment and spatial orientation. Spatial memory is an important component of the working and reference memory.  The ability to navigate and remember objects and events is a crucial aspect of healthy living and quality of life. In individuals with neurodegenerative disorders (such as Parkinson’s diseases) and those with brain injuries, the capability to navigate and remember, even familiar places and objects, can be heavily diminished or impaired.

Several assessment tools are available to measure spatial and cognitive irregularities in adults and children. The general principle of these tests involves memorization and repetition of a sequence. These tests help determine visual-spatial memory span and the implicit visual-spatial learning abilities of individuals. The Corsi Block Tapping test is an example of a Spatial Memory test that is capable of testing both short-term and long-term spatial memory.


The general procedure of Spatial Memory assessment tools requires the participant to observe and remember the sequence presented to them and then the task difficulty.

For example, the Corsi Block Tapping test presents the participant with a 3 x 3 matrix of blocks. The experimenter taps the blocks in a random sequence which the participant is asked to observe and then repeat the sequence of the taps. Another version of the Corsi Block Tapping test requires the participant to repeat the sequence backward.

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Active Tasks: Spatial Memory

Apple’s ResearchKit framework provides an Active Task called the Spatial Memory. The Spatial Memory activity assesses the visuospatial memory, and executive function of the participant through a game-like observe and recall task. The length of the sequence can be modified as needed quite similar to the Corsi Block Tapping test.

Spatial Memory task instructions

  1. Hold the device or place it on a surface for optimal game performance.
  2. Initiate the task. The screen will display a grid of flowers.
  3. Begin the task.
  4. Observe the light-up sequence of the flowers.
  5. Tap the flowers in the sequence they lit up earlier.
  6. In the event of task failure, a new sequence will be presented.
  7. Repeat the task for the set number of plays.
  8. Task completed.


Parkinson’ Disease

Stoffers et al., 2003 evaluated sequential visuospatial memory span using an adapted Corsi Block-Tapping Task in patients with treated and untreated group of Parkinson’s patients showed memory span deficits in comparison to the controls.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Guariglia (2007) evaluated spatial memory in patients with Alzheimer’s disease using the Corsi Block-Tapping test. The 9 blocks were irregularly arranged on the board such that the numbered side was only visible to the examiner. The blocks were tapped by the examiner in increasing lengths of the sequence for each trial, and the participants were required to replicate the sequence after each demonstration immediately. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease showed worse performance than the controls. However, the task was unable to differentiate between patients with mild and moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders

Rizzutti et al., 2008 evaluated the clinical and neuropsychological findings in children with suspicion of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Of the 75 children meeting the criteria for ADHD, 35 were of the inattentive type, 28 of combined type and 12 were hyperactive/impulsive. Forward and Backward Corsi Block-Tapping task was used to assess the visuospatial memory of the children. The negative correlation between the digit score and the Corsi test results was observed. The study suggested that these multiple interrelations between the scores of neuropsychological batteries could potentially be used for detailed delimitation of the clinical profile of children with ADHD.

Fabry Disease

Cocozza et al., 2018 performed a resting state fMRI study to evaluate the presence of Default Mode Network (DMN) modifications in Fabry Disease (FD). The study further evaluated the possible correlations with neuropsychological scores obtained in Corsi Block-Tapping test among other tests. The Fabry disease group did not significantly differ in scores in comparison to the healthy controls.

Chronic Vestibular Failure

Popp et al., 2017 evaluated 16 patients with a unilateral vestibular failure (UVF) and 18 patients with bilateral vestibular failure (BVF) to understand the functional consequences of chronic vestibular failure on different cognitive domains. Forward and backward Corsi Block Tapping Test was used to assess the working memory and executive function. The evaluation results revealed that BVF patients were significantly impaired in all of the examined cognitive domains. Whereas, the UVF patients exhibited impairments in their visuospatial abilities, and in one of the two processing speed tasks.

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Results and Data Analysis

The Corsi Block-Tapping Test scores the maximum number of correct sequence reproduced and can also include the time taken to complete the task.

The following sample graph shows the mean scores of control group versus Alzheimer’s disease patients in the Corsi Block-Tapping task (Guariglia 2007) (figure 1)

Below are sample graphs for evaluations of spatial memory using Forward Corsi Block-Tapping Task, and executive functions evaluated using Backward Corsi Block-Tapping Task in patients with unilateral vestibular failure (UVF) and bilateral vestibular failure (BVF) as compared to controls (C) (Popp et al., 2017).

Strengths and Limitations


The spatial memory task is a nonverbal widely used test to assess visuospatial working memory


The manual task can be prone to errors in recording accuracy of measures of span and reaction time. These shortcomings can be overcome by employing a digital version of the task. The task may be difficult to administer in individual’s unable to cooperate with the process.

  • Spatial Memory is responsible for recording and retrieving information of an individual’s environment and spatial orientation.
  • Spatial Memory assessment tools require the participant to observe and remember the sequence presented to them by the administer and replicate it when asked.
  • Difficulty levels can be varied by changing the
  • Backward Corsi Block Tapping test requires the participant to repeat tapped sequence backward.


Cocozza S, Pontillo G, Quarantelli M, Saccà F, Riccio E, Costabile T, Olivo G, Brescia Morra V, Pisani A, Brunetti A, Tedeschi E (2018). Default mode network modifications in Fabry disease: A resting-state fMRI study with structural correlations. Hum Brain Mapp. doi: 10.1002/hbm.23949.

Guariglia CC (2007). Spatial working memory in Alzheimer’s disease: A study using the Corsi block-tapping test. Dement Neuropsychol. 1(4):392-395. doi: 10.1590/S1980-57642008DN10400011.

Popp P, Wulff M, Finke K, Rühl M, Brandt T, Dieterich M (2017). Cognitive deficits in patients with a chronic vestibular failure. J Neurol. 264(3):554-563. doi: 10.1007/s00415-016-8386-7

Ritter, S. (2014). Apples Research Kit Development Framework for iPhone Apps Enables Innovative Approaches to Medical Research Data Collection. Journal of Clinical Trials, 05(02). doi:10.4172/2167-0870.1000e120

Rizzutti S, Sinnes EG, Scaramuzza LF, Freitas L, Pinheiro D, Palma SM, Mello CB, Miranda MC, Bueno OF, Muszkat M (2008). Clinical and neuropsychological profile in a sample of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorders. Arq Neuropsiquiatr. 66(4):821-7.

Stoffers D, Berendse HW, Deijen JB, Wolters ECh (2003). Deficits on Corsi’s block-tapping task in early stage Parkinson’s disease. Parkinsonism Relat Disord. 10(2):107-11.

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