British researchers have identified a part of the brain that tells us the exact direction to travel while we navigate through the traffic, thus making some better while driving on busy roads too.
This part of the brain that signals which direction you are facing – called the entorhinal region, is also used to signal the direction in which you need to travel to reach your destination.
“In other words, we have found where our ‘sense of direction’ comes from in the brain,” said Hugo Spiers from University College London (UCL).
It also shows that the strength and reliability of “homing signal” in the human brain vary among people and can predict navigational ability.
This type of “homing signal” has been thought to exist for many years but until now, it has remained purely speculation.
Studies on London cab drivers have shown that the first thing they do when they work out a route is calculate which direction they need to head in.
“We now know that the entorhinal cortex is responsible for such calculations and the quality of signals from this region seem to determine how good someone’s navigational skills will be,” Dr Spiers added.
For example, if you turn left then your entorhinal region should process this to shift your facing direction and goal direction accordingly.
If you get lost after taking too many turns, this may be because your brain could not keep up and failed to adjust your facing and goal directions.
The entorhinal region is one of the first parts of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease so the findings may also help to explain why people start to get lost in the early stages of the disease, the authors noted.
It is already known that mammals have brain cells that signal the direction that they are currently facing, a discovery that formed part of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine to UCL professor John O’Keefe.
The current research was published in the journal Current Biology.(IANS)