HomePOPULARResearchers Revel Brain Signals Behind Human 'Neural Compass' for Body Mechanics

Researchers Revel Brain Signals Behind Human ‘Neural Compass’ for Body Mechanics

A team of scientists from the University of Birmingham and the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich has made a significant breakthrough in understanding how our brains navigate the world. Their study, published in Nature Human Behaviour, reveals the brain activity associated with our internal ‘neural compass’ – the mechanism responsible for keeping us properly oriented in our surroundings.

While previous research has focused on mapping the brain’s navigation system, little was known about how our neurological wiring monitors our direction within it. This latest study aimed to fill that gap by identifying the signature brain activity that describes this neural compass.


Led by neuroscientist Benjamin Griffiths from the University of Birmingham, the researchers conducted experiments involving 52 healthy volunteers. Participants were prompted to orient their heads and eyes in different directions while their brain signals were monitored using electroencephalogram (EEG) caps connected to their scalps. Additionally, motion tracking technology recorded their movements.

Further tests were conducted on 10 volunteers with electrodes already implanted inside their skulls, providing the researchers with even more detailed insights into brain activity during head and eye movements.

The results of the study revealed that specific brain regions, including the medial temporal lobe, parietal cortex, and parahippocampus, play significant roles in our neural compass. Signals in these regions were observed just before head movements, indicating their crucial role in maintaining our orientation in space and preventing us from getting lost in our environment.

According to Griffiths, isolating these signals allows researchers to better understand how the brain processes navigational information and integrates it with other cues, such as visual landmarks.

The implications of this research extend beyond basic neuroscience. Understanding how the brain navigates our bodies through space could have important applications in preventing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Additionally, the findings could contribute to the development of navigation technologies in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI).

Griffiths emphasizes that the discovery of our internal neural compass comes at a time when society is increasingly reliant on technology for navigation. As we continue to develop and refine navigation technologies, insights into how the human brain operates could lead to improvements in these systems.

Overall, the study represents a significant step forward in our understanding of the brain’s navigation system and its impact on human behavior and technology development.

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