Background: Over the past couple of decades, the number of people of different cultures traveling to places of high altitude (HA) increased. At HA, a decline in cognitive abilities has been described, including spatial skills. However, it is still unknown whether people accustomed to hypobaric hypoxia are less susceptible to cognitive decline. Method: We aimed to determine if three ethnic groups would show any difference in the performance of spatial abilities. Italian trekkers (46.20 – 15.83 years), Nepalese porters (30.33 – 8.55 years), and lowlander and highlander Sherpas (30.33 – 8.55 and 37.00 – 16.51 years) were tested with a building photograph recognition, a map orienting, and a mental rotation task during a Himalayan expedition. Accuracy and response times were collected at low altitude (LA) and HA. Results: Nepalese performed the worst (photograph task: p = 0.015, g2 p = 0.36; map task: p = 0.016, g2 p = 0.36), but the difference was mitigated after correcting for length of schooling. Participants took more time to respond at LA than in HA condition (photograph task: 24.0 – 15.3 seconds vs. 12.7 – 6.3 seconds, p = 0.008, g2 p = 0.57; map task: 12.5 – 1.8 seconds vs. 7.8 – 0.6 seconds, p = 0.038, g2 p = 0.40). In the map task, participants performed with greater accuracy at LA (5.1 – 0.4 vs. 4.4 – 0.4 number of correct responses, p = 0.006, g2 p = 0.59). Conclusions: Altitude hypoxia elicited impairments in cognitive spatial tasks. This may be due to the inability to acquire new unfamiliar patterns, and to the difficulty in managing a high cognitive workload. The ethnic differences were ascribed to schooling, even we consider the different system of reference usually exploited in each culture (egocentric: dependent, or allocentric: independent from the personal viewpoint), and that Westerners are more likely to focus on specific details of the scene. Further studies should investigate the diverse strategies to complete spatial tasks.

Spatial abilities at high altitude: exploring the role of cultural strategies and hypoxia / Bondi, Danilo; Verratti, Vittore; Nori, Raffaella; Piccardi, Laura; Prete, Giulia; Pietrangelo, Tiziana; Tommasi, Luca. - In: HIGH ALTITUDE MEDICINE & BIOLOGY. - ISSN 1557-8682. - 22:2(2021), pp. 157-165. [10.1089/ham.2020.0115]

Spatial abilities at high altitude: exploring the role of cultural strategies and hypoxia

Piccardi, Laura;
2021

Abstract

Background: Over the past couple of decades, the number of people of different cultures traveling to places of high altitude (HA) increased. At HA, a decline in cognitive abilities has been described, including spatial skills. However, it is still unknown whether people accustomed to hypobaric hypoxia are less susceptible to cognitive decline. Method: We aimed to determine if three ethnic groups would show any difference in the performance of spatial abilities. Italian trekkers (46.20 – 15.83 years), Nepalese porters (30.33 – 8.55 years), and lowlander and highlander Sherpas (30.33 – 8.55 and 37.00 – 16.51 years) were tested with a building photograph recognition, a map orienting, and a mental rotation task during a Himalayan expedition. Accuracy and response times were collected at low altitude (LA) and HA. Results: Nepalese performed the worst (photograph task: p = 0.015, g2 p = 0.36; map task: p = 0.016, g2 p = 0.36), but the difference was mitigated after correcting for length of schooling. Participants took more time to respond at LA than in HA condition (photograph task: 24.0 – 15.3 seconds vs. 12.7 – 6.3 seconds, p = 0.008, g2 p = 0.57; map task: 12.5 – 1.8 seconds vs. 7.8 – 0.6 seconds, p = 0.038, g2 p = 0.40). In the map task, participants performed with greater accuracy at LA (5.1 – 0.4 vs. 4.4 – 0.4 number of correct responses, p = 0.006, g2 p = 0.59). Conclusions: Altitude hypoxia elicited impairments in cognitive spatial tasks. This may be due to the inability to acquire new unfamiliar patterns, and to the difficulty in managing a high cognitive workload. The ethnic differences were ascribed to schooling, even we consider the different system of reference usually exploited in each culture (egocentric: dependent, or allocentric: independent from the personal viewpoint), and that Westerners are more likely to focus on specific details of the scene. Further studies should investigate the diverse strategies to complete spatial tasks.
2021
cognitive functions; ecological study; environmental stressors; ethnic differences; hypobaric hypoxia
01 Pubblicazione su rivista::01a Articolo in rivista
Spatial abilities at high altitude: exploring the role of cultural strategies and hypoxia / Bondi, Danilo; Verratti, Vittore; Nori, Raffaella; Piccardi, Laura; Prete, Giulia; Pietrangelo, Tiziana; Tommasi, Luca. - In: HIGH ALTITUDE MEDICINE & BIOLOGY. - ISSN 1557-8682. - 22:2(2021), pp. 157-165. [10.1089/ham.2020.0115]
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11573/1478887
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