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Exploring Human Spatial Cognition
At NeuroLab we make use of behavioural, neuroimaging, genetic, and neuropsychological approaches to investigate the human ability to orient and navigate in spatial surroundings. We are interested in understanding the fundamental mechanisms related to spatial cognition throughout the life span (from early development to the elderly) and in the event of clinical conditions affecting the central nervous system. Our research is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Canadian Space Agency, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
The ability to orient within the environment is a very complex behaviour that we all engage on a daily basis. Our research focuses on investigating the cognitive and neurological mechanisms underlying such complex behaviour, and what people can do in order to improve it. Our online assessment and training platform at www.gettinglost.ca is available for free use to benefit the general public and the research community. Our projects focus on a variety of topics. We investigate the cognitive, genetic and neurological mechanisms underlying Developmental Topographical Disorientation (DTD), a lifelong condition affecting people's orientation in very familiar surroundings, and we are currently developing a training program to improve people's orientation skills (visit www.gettinglost.ca to learn more).
We are also investigating the behavioural and neurological effects of microgravity on Astronauts' spatial orientation skills. The study involves testing Astronauts before and after their mission in the International Space Station, and is funded by the Canadian Space Agency. Click here to learn more.
We are interested in investigating human spatial orientation skills throughout the lifespan. As such, we investigate how children develop different orientation skills, and how aging affects those skills. We have developed a series of assessment tools for children and adults to evaluate their orientation skills, and created some training program that may target the development (for children) and maintenance (for seniors) of selective orientation skills critical for daily life.
In addition to healthy controls, we investigate deficit in spatial orientation skills in patients suffering from a variety of acquired brain injuries and neurological conditions; these include children with perinatal strokes, concussion, depression, and adults with brain injuries and neurodegenerative disorders. The objective of these studies is to assess the orientation skills affected by a given condition, learn about the neurological mechanisms underlying the ability to orient, and develop training protocols to help people orient better.
Finally, given the critical contribution of spatial orientation skills in daily life activities, we investigate the relationship between the ability to orient, psychosocial outcomes and quality of life. We also focus on investigating how the quality of sleep and sleep deprivation affect spatial memory and orientation skills, providing insights on the detrimental effects of particular workplaces with unusual work-schedules.
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