Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center

Enhancing Spatial Navigation with Noninvasive Brain Stimulation

Enhancing Spatial Navigation with Noninvasive Brain Stimulation

Overall Status: 
Brief Description: 

The ability to navigate--to travel from one location to another--declines with normal aging and can be further affected by conditions such as vision loss and dementia. This study will test the effect of noninvasive brain stimulation on older adults' allocentric navigation, the use a mental map of the environment to navigate.

Patient Qualifications: 
Min AgeMax AgeGenderHealthy Volunteers
18 Years
88 Years
Inclusion Criteria: 

    All Participants

    • Minimum of 12 years of education or attainment of a Graduation Equivalency Diploma
    • All medications stable for approximately 3 months
    • English as native and preferred language
    • Ablity to undergo magnetic resonance imaging  (MRI) if taking part in fMRI studies

    Participants with Mild Cognitive Impairment

    • Diagnosis of amnestic (memory-related) MCI
    • Other potential causes of cognitive deficit ruled out by referring physician
Exclusion Criteria: 
    • History of neurological disease or injury other than traumatic brain injury
    • History of severe mental illness
    • Current untreated alcohol or substance abuse


Detailed Description: 

Two distinct memory systems interact during navigation. The first, allocentric navigation, uses spatial knowledge of key features or landmarks to develop and use a mental map of the environment. This approach involves brain regions that are critical for new learning and memory but decline with age. The second, egocentric navigation, relies on "habit" memories that link specific features with specific directions. This approach relies on brain regions that are critical for "automatic" responses and that are relatively unaffected by age. As people age, allocentric navigation declines, a change that increases the risk of becoming disoriented or lost, even in familiar areas.

The main goal of this project is to examine whether noninvasive brain stimulation, specifically transcranial direct current stimulation, can improve allocentric navigation in healthy older adults or those with MCI.

Participants will complete three functional MRI sessions while learning new environments. Before two of these sessions, older adults will receive brain stimulation that is designed to improve allocentric navigation. Results for older participants will be compared with those of healthy young participants to examine whether brain stimulation reduces age-related impairments in allocentric  memory and associated brain functioning.

Map Marker CityStateZip CodeStatusPrimary Contact

Geolocation is 33.8092255, -84.2805478

Atlanta VA Medical and Rehab Center

Geolocation is 42.2808256, -83.7430378

VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System
Ann Arbor
Benjamin M. Hampstead, PhD
Lead Sponsor: 
Department of Veterans Affairs
Collaborator Sponsor: 
Facility Investigators: 
Benjamin M. Hampstead, PhD
Principal Investigator
VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System
Study Contact: 
Alina Lesnovskaya
Locations ID 
NCT01958437 (follow link to view full record on in new window)
Official Title: 
Enhancing Spatial Navigation Using Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation
Study Start Date: 
October 2013
Study End Date: 
October 2018
Disease Stage: