Spatial cognition is an umbrella term used to refer to the complex set of abilities necessary to encode, categorize, and use spatial information from the surrounding environment to move effectively and orient within it. Experimental studies indicate that the cerebellum belongs to the neural network involved in spatial cognition, although its exact role in this function remains unclear. Our aim was to investigate in a pilot study using a virtual reality navigation task in healthy subjects whether cerebellar transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), a non-invasive technique, influences spatial navigation. Forty healthy volunteers (24 women; age range = 20–42 years; years of education range 13–18) were recruited. The virtual reality spatial navigation task comprised two phases: encoding, in which participants actively navigated the environment and learned the spatial locations for one object, and retrieval, in which they retrieved the position of the object they had discovered and memorized in the previous encoding phase, starting from another starting point. Participants received tDCS stimulation (anodal or sham according to the experimental condition they were assigned to) for 20 min before beginning the retrieval phase. Our results showed that cerebellar tDCS left the accuracy of the three indexes used to measure effective navigational abilities unchanged. Hence, cerebellar tDCS had no influence on the retrieval phase for the spatial maps stored. Further studies, enrolling a larger sample and testing a different stimulation protocol, may give a greater insight into the role of the cerebellum in spatial navigation.
- cerebellar tDCS
- spatial navigation