Memory-guided navigation in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Patrizia M. Maier, Deetje Iggena, Thomas Meyer, Carsten Finke & Christoph J. Ploner

Background: Previous studies have yielded inconsistent results about hippocampal involvement in non-demented patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). We hypothesized that testing of memory-guided spatial navigation i.e., a highly hippocampus-dependent behaviour, might reveal behavioural correlates of hippocampal dysfunction in non-demented ALS patients.

Methods: We conducted a prospective study of spatial cognition in 43 non-demented ALS outpatients (11f, 32 m, mean age 60.0 years, mean disease duration 27.0 months, mean ALSFRS-R score 40.0) and 43 healthy controls (14f, 29 m, mean age 57.0 years). Participants were tested with a virtual memory-guided navigation task derived from animal research (“starmaze”) that has previously been used in studies of hippocampal function. Participants were further tested with neuropsychological tests of visuospatial memory (SPART, 10/36 Spatial Recall Test), fluency (5PT, five-point test) and orientation (PTSOT, Perspective Taking/Spatial Orientation Test).

Results: Patients successfully learned and navigated the starmaze from memory, both in conditions that forced memory of landmarks (success: patients 50.7%, controls 47.7%, p = 0.786) and memory of path sequences (success: patients 96.5%, controls 94.0%, p = 0.937). Measures of navigational efficacy (latency, path error and navigational uncertainty) did not differ between groups (p ≥ 0.546). Likewise, SPART, 5PT and PTSOT scores did not differ between groups (p ≥ 0.238).

Conclusions: This study found no behavioural correlate for hippocampal dysfunction in non-demented ALS patients. These findings support the view that the individual cognitive phenotype of ALS may relate to distinct disease subtypes rather than being a variable expression of the same underlying condition

J Neurol. (2023)


amyotrophic lateral sclerosishippocampusmotor neuron diseasenavigationspatial memory
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