UCL News


UCL in the News: Scientists learn how we find our way

20 January 2008

Richard Gray, 'The Daily Telegraph' Scientists have discovered why some people get lost more often than others when trying to pick a way through city streets.

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. …

Neuroscientists at UCL have revealed the findings as part of an exhibition at London's Gimpel Fils Gallery, funded by the medical research charity the Wellcome Trust. …

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." …