Creating an Appropriate Experimental Design to Study the Learning Process in a Computer Maze Task

Howie, Sarah
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University of Delaware
Motor learning is a set of processes associated with practice that leads to improvements in performance or execution of a task. The prefrontal cortex plays an important role in learning as it is associated with planning and assisting motor tasks. The purpose of this study is to create a perfect experimental paradigm using MazeSuite and Functional Near Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS) in order to evaluate the learning process. Three adult participants completed an online virtual maze in blocks of 10 trials until the maze was mastered. fNIRS recorded the participant’s oxygenated hemoglobin in the prefrontal cortex and MazeSuite recorded the participant’s path lengths. Data analysis looked at the relationship between oxygenated hemoglobin and trial number, path length and trial number, and oxygenated hemoglobin and path length. Overall, as trial number increased, oxygenated hemoglobin decreased. The same relationship was seen when comparing path length with trial number. Lastly, as path length decreased, oxygenated hemoglobin also decreased. Future researchers can go into more detail with the data collection process, study the Contextual Interference Effect, and study kids with developmental disabilities such as Dyslexia.
Exercise Science