The present study explored the neural mechanism underlying the effect of moderate and transient hypoxic exposure on mental rotation of two-dimensional letters in both normal and mirror versions. Event-related potential data and behavioral data were acquired in the task of discrimination between normal and mirrored versions separately in conditions of normoxia (simulated sea level) and hypoxia conditions (simulated 5000 meter altitude). The behavioral results revealed no significant difference between the normoxia and hypoxia conditions both in response time and error rate. However, obvious differences between these two conditions in ERP were found. First, enlarged P300 and Rotation-related Negativity (RRN) were observed in the hypoxia condition compared to the normoxia condition only with normal letters. Second, the angle effect on the amplitude of RRN was more evident with normal letters in the hypoxia condition than that in the normoxia condition. However, this angle effect nearly disappeared with the mirrored letters in the hypoxia condition. Third, more bilateral parietal activation was observed in the hypoxia condition than the normoxia condition. These results suggested that the compensation mechanism existed in the hypoxia condition and was effective with normal letters but had little effect on the mirrored letters. This study extends the research about the hypoxic effect on spatial ability of humans by employing a mental rotation task and further provides neural evidence for this effect.
Ma, Q., Hu, L., Li, J., Hu, Y., Xia, L., Chen, X., & Hu, W. (2016). Different effects of hypoxia on mental rotation of normal and mirrored letters: Evidence from the rotation-related negativity. PLoS ONE, 11(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0154479