The Relationship between Nutritional Status and Allocentric Orientation in 31-36-Months-Old Toddlers

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Poor dietary quality and obesity have been linked to impaired cognitive abilities, including spatial orientation. Spatial orientation can be achieved either via egocentric orientation (using one’s own body as the primary reference frame) or allocentric orientation (using spatial relationship between objects as the primary reference frame). Allocentric orientation is a more advanced skill than egocentric orientation. Previous studies show that 30-month-old toddlers are unable to use allocentric orientation, while 35-month-old toddlers are. Here, we investigate differences in allocentric orientation abilities in a sample (N=23) of 31-36-month-old toddlers using a previously established virtual reality paradigm. We then related allocentric orientation abilities to nutritional status, measured as a compound score of Body Mass Index (BMI) and dietary quality. A repeated measures ANOVA with age and nutritional status as covariates and trial type (egocentric vs allocentric) as the within-subjects factor, revealed no significant main effects of age or nutritional status on task performance. Albeit the lack of significance of these effects, their associated effect size was of medium magnitude, indicating that significance may not have been reached due to the small sample (N=23). Follow-up exploratory analyses indicated that allocentric orientation abilities increase with age. Nutritional status was also strongly, albeit non-significantly, positively related to allocentric task performance. This relation was mostly driven by dietary quality, rather than by BMI. Given the small sample size and the lack of significance of the results found, the trends found should be treated as exploratory and should be replicated by future, better powered studies.
Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen