Navigating to New Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience: Traditional Neuropsychological Tests Predict Human Performance on a Rodent-Inspired Radial-Arm Maze
We constructed an 11-arm, walk-through, human radial-arm maze (HRAM) as a translational instrument to compare existing methodology in the areas of rodent and human learning and memory research. The HRAM, utilized here, serves as an intermediary test between the classic rat radial-arm maze (RAM) and standard human neuropsychological and cognitive tests. We show that the HRAM is a useful instrument to examine working memory ability, explore the relationships between rodent and human memory and cognition models, and evaluate factors that contribute to human navigational ability. One-hundred-and-fifty-seven participants were tested on the HRAM, and scores were compared to performance on a standard cognitive battery focused on episodic memory, working memory capacity, and visuospatial ability. We found that errors on the HRAM increased as working memory demand became elevated, similar to the pattern typically seen in rodents, and that for this task, performance appears similar to Miller's classic description of a processing-inclusive human working memory capacity of 7 ± 2 items. Regression analysis revealed that measures of working memory capacity and visuospatial ability accounted for a large proportion of variance in HRAM scores, while measures of episodic memory and general intelligence did not serve as significant predictors of HRAM performance. We present the HRAM as a novel instrument for measuring navigational behavior in humans, as is traditionally done in basic science studies evaluating rodent learning and memory, thus providing a useful tool to help connect and translate between human and rodent models of cognitive functioning.