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New Research on Wayfinding and “Grid Cells” in the Human Brain

Posted by on Aug 5, 2013 in wayfinding and the brain | 0 comments

New Research on Wayfinding and “Grid Cells” in the Human Brain

Even though some of us call ourselves directionally challenged, while others say we have a great sense of direction, the scientific details of what exactly is going on in our brains as we navigate have been pretty sketchy up to now.  With new interest in this area and new technologies being developed, scientists are uncovering more and better explanations of how we find our way (or not) from Point A to Point B.

A recent study, published in Nature Neuroscience by Dr. Joshua Jacobs and his colleagues draws attention to “grid cells” which help our brains navigate in unfamiliar places. Of course, humans aren’t the only ones with grid cells: monkeys, bats, and rats have them too. According to an article in The Scientist by Tracy Vence, “Contrasting with place cells, which fire action potentials when an animal passes through a specific space, the researchers found that these newly identified neurons fired in a triangular grid pattern, all at once, when an animal moves about in open space.”

Fiona Macrae writes in The Daily Mail Online that this new research was based on responses of 14 volunteers with epilepsy who had electrodes implanted in their brains as part of their treatment. Researchers asked them to play a video game that involved riding a virtual bike from one place to another to retrieve objects and then remembering how they got back to the places where they found the objects.

Science News reports that these grid cells were located in the “entorhinal cortex and hippocampus, brain areas that are important for navigation and memory.”

The Huffington Post quotes one of the researchers, Dr. Michael Kahana, as saying,””The present finding of grid cells in the human brain, together with the earlier discovery of human hippocampal ‘place cells,’ which fire at single locations, provide compelling evidence for a common mapping and navigational system preserved across humans and lower animals.”

Read more about it:

http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nn.3466.html

http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/36881/title/Mapping-Humans–Mental-GPS/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2384638/Terrible-sense-direction-Heres-reason-Newly-identified-grid-cells-blame-dont-know-left-right.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/352135/description/News_in_Brief_Space-mapping_neurons_found_in_human_brain

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/05/sense-of-direction-grid-cells-brain-_n_3708972.html

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If you’re directionally challenged you need the book, Directional Sense: How to Find Your Way Around, by Janet R. Carpman and Myron A. Grant. www.directionalsense.com

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