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Walking on a minefield: planning, remembering, and avoiding obstacles: preliminary findings


Travel planning (TP) is a kind of planning devoted to spatial orientation that is distinguishable from general planning (GP). It is crucial to reach a destination, since it allows to select the best route according to the environmental features (e.g., the one with little traffic or the safest). TP is also needed to avoid obstacles along the way and to put in place effective strategies to support navigation. TP involves several cognitive processes, such as visuo-spatial and topographic memory as well as other executive functions (i.e., general planning, cognitive flexibility, problem solving, and divergent thinking) and it is affected by internal factors (such as gender, cognitive strategies, age). Here, we focused on the effects of visuo-spatial (VSWM) and topographic (TWM) working memory on TP, using the Minefield Task (MFT), a new tool aimed at testing TP. We tested VSWM, TWM, GP, and TP in 44 college students. First, we checked for gender differences in all the tasks proposed and then assessed the relation among VSWM, TWM, GP, and TP. Results showed that even though gender difference could be found on TWM, GP, and TP, significative correlations emerged among TP, VSWM, and GP as well as a tendency to significance for VSWM and GP in the regression analyses. Though more evidence is needed, these results suggest that when a brand-new route is computed, GP and VSWM can be the most relevant processes, whereas topographic memory was less involved, probably because the MFT does not require to recall a route from memory. The implications of these results in clinical settings are discussed.

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The datasets generated during and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.


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The authors did not receive support from any organization for the submitted work. The authors declare they have no financial or non-financial interests to disclose.

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Correspondence to Bocchi Alessia.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Communicated by Francesca Frassinetti.

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Alessia, B., Massimiliano, P. & Laura, P. Walking on a minefield: planning, remembering, and avoiding obstacles: preliminary findings. Exp Brain Res 240, 1921–1931 (2022).

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