The brain has a complex system for keeping track of which direction you are facing as you move about; remembering how to get from one place to another would otherwise be impossible. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have now shown how the brain anchors this mental compass.
Their findings provide a neurological basis for something that psychologists have long observed about navigational behavior: people use geometrical relationships to orient themselves.
The research, which is related to the work that won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, adds new dimensions to our understanding of spatial memory and how it helps us to build memories of events.
Original Research: Abstract for “Anchoring the neural compass: coding of local spatial reference frames in human medial parietal lobe” by Steven A Marchette, Lindsay K Vass, Jack Ryan and Russell A Epstein in Nature Neuroscience. Published online October 5 2014 doi:10.1038/nn.3834