Skip to comments.Scientists Learn How We Find Our Way
Posted on 01/20/2008 2:51:19 PM PST by blam
Scientists learn how we find our way
By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 20/01/2008
Scientists have discovered why some people get lost more often than others when trying to pick a way through city streets.
Researchers have found that two key parts of the brain work together to help humans plan and follow routes in a familiar city.
A part of the brain called the hippocampus stores memories about key locations and landmarks while other brain cells - grid cells - provide our internal sense of space and distance, rather like a GPS system.
The two parts of the brain "talk" to each other and allow us to remember routes and plan new ones. But in people who get lost easily, navigation cells are less efficient at talking to each other, so they get disoriented.
Neuroscientists at University College London have revealed the findings as part of an exhibition at London's Giomple Fils Gallery, funded by the medical research charity the Wellcome Trust.
They believe training these cells can help people navigate more easily and may explain how London taxi drivers gain the "knowledge", the encyclopedic memory of the city's streets required before they can get a licence.
Dr Hugo Spiers, a neuro-scientist at UCL, said: "People who get lost easily don't make good use of their grid cells. These provide us with information about distance, movement and direction while linking to memories about specific landmarks. For each location a specific pattern of cells will send signals to trigger a particular memory.
"For example the entrance to Top Shop on your local high street will have one pattern while another will trigger a memory of St Pancras station. By talking to each other in this way, the cells allow the brain to produce a route it has to follow."
Researchers have found that if either of these two key parts of the brain is not working, the ability to find our way around is impaired.
I remember when, as a youngin, I got my first vehicle. I could navigate all over the town and county, as long as I could see the mountains to our east and south.
On foggy days, I could barely find my way across the street.
I know why some people get lost. It is because of transportation officials that put up stupid direction signs. The department must use toke heads to think up street and highway direction signs.
How do you attribute this to chance?
The exceptions being certain 2nd Lieutenants, who under certain circumstances tend not to survive either.
Either that or it’s God’s own relative addressing algorithm.
I grew up in San Diego. The mountains were to the east, the ocean to the west. Facing the ocean, Los Angeles was to the right, Mexico to the left.
In the many years since I’ve moved away from there, I can’t find my way out of a paper bag. I guess my brain got lazy with the convenient landmarks.
P.S. Pancake New Orleans and Tidewater area of VA drove me crazy!!!!
P.P.S. My I.Q. is 130+ so it’s not brain power but I’m totally stupid in trying to figure out where I am. Thank God for Garmin!!! ;o)
IOW, "horse sense"?
Kinda like navigating through New Jersey — I found it easier to do on sunny days. :-)
No wonder I hear voices in my brain.
Now GPS makes it obsolete.
Time to get another grant and study how the GPS stopped brains from talking.
Was it ever, officially, determined to a final certainty, whether or not 2nd Lieutenants with map and compass were really a secret enemy weapon?
I do remember skuttlebutt that stated such.
In other words, Women
All that they had to do is ask R.E.M.:
Stand in the place where you live
Now face North
Think about direction
Wonder why you haven't before
Now stand in the place where you work
Now face West
Think about the place where you live
Wonder why you haven't before
If you are confused check with the sun
Carry a compass to help you along
Your feet are going to be on the ground
Your head is there to move you around
. . .
Those that were always getting lost got eaten by predators.
That was never proved to be true.
However studies have shown that given a map and a flashlight, and told he can indeed use both hands, a 2nd Lt will find his own ass 73% of the time.
It sounds like a model demonstration of natural selection to me.
73%? Wow. I would have guessed 30%. Maybe as much as 50% with the truly gifted. But, that’s still within the range of just random choice.
73%?!? Are you sure you didn’t transpose those numbers? This might actually be evidence of gene tampering.
This would be my wife.
I just use the “old Bushman’s trick” - I “think” my way... /grin
I had a girlfriend who could get lost going down a one way street and wind up back where she started. No kidding. It actually happened. Sweet person, but she had zero sense of direction and distance.
Me personally, I’m seriously missing out on those grid cells.