Finding Their Way in Space: An Alternative Strategy Improves Navigation Performance in Otoconia-Deficient Mice

Document Type

Poster Session

Presentation Date

Fall 11-4-2013

Conference Name

29th American Society for Gravitational and Space Research Conference

Conference Location

Orlando, FL

Peer Review



Optimal task performance within an environment often requires some form of navigation, and the strategy that guides navigation is typically well-suited to the environment. Two common strategies in terrestrial environments are landmark navigation and path integration, which involve the use of environmental cues and self-movement cues, respectively. These strategies are less effective in microgravity, however, as both landmark navigation and path integration depend on graviception. This requirement poses a problem for terrestrial species during space travel, and an accessible alternative strategy may improve the accuracy of navigation in microgravity. To this end, we tested whether prior experience with a landmark navigation task could improve performance of a path integration task in mice that lack the ability to perceive gravity. METHOD Otoconia-deficient tilted mice and their heterozygous control littermates were pretrained on a radial arm maze discrimination task in light prior to solving a Lashley-III maze task in darkness. Comparison groups of tilted and control mice performed only the Lashley-III maze task without pretraining. RESULTS Non-pretrained control mice performed better than non-pretrained tilted mice, although both groups improved across trials. Pretraining improved performance for both control and tilted mice; most importantly, performance was nearly identical for pretrained tilted and control mice. Preliminary analysis suggests the pretrained mice adopted a wall-following strategy on the radial arm maze that was applicable to the Lashley-III maze. CONCLUSION Otoconia-deficient tilted mice, which cannot perceive gravity, adopted an alternative navigation strategy that enabled them to overcome their path integration deficits. Pretraining with alternative strategies may therefore be beneficial for navigation in microgravity environments.


Biological Psychology | Psychology

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