Despite the severe challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic that affected the activity of both partners, we achieved substantial progress on most work packages of the project. The socially-guided spatial navigation task, has been designed, coded, tested, updated and validated in a very collaborative interaction between the two partners. In this task, the subject navigates a virtual space with the scope of finding hidden virtual objects, and with the help of either a social co-player or of a robot player.
The Norwegian partner implemented this task in the fMRI scanner, on the 7T MRI machine. The Romanian partner implemented the same task in intracranially-implanted patients in brain structures relevant for spatial navigation, memory, and social processing. The same task will be used with scalp electroencephalographic recordings for capturing activity in neural networks with high temporal resolution. These three different approaches will allow us to link behavioral events with neural activity, particularly in entorhinal cortex and hippocampus, structures that encode spatial navigation.
Our major interest will be in determining if neural activity tracks the navigation of a social partner. We are also interested in understanding how social inputs could benefit episodic (WP5 and 6) and autobiographical memory (WP7).
We produced a short movie that will be used as a stimulus for the episodic memory task, and we are currently developing a battery of questions and tests meant to determine the role of a social input in recalling details from this movie. We also tested the synchronized EEG recordings that will allow us to measure the level of synchronization between social partners before, during and after the social movie-watching experience.
For the autobiographical task, we developed the cave-VR experimental procedure, and are ready to test the effects of social inputs on olfactory-triggered autobiographical memories.