For the first time, scientists have recorded how our brains navigate physical space and track the location of others, suggesting that our brains generate a common code to mark where other people are in relation to ourselves.
The researchers used a special backpack to wirelessly monitor the brain waves of epilepsy patients as each walked around an empty room looking for a two-foot hidden spot.
In an article published in Nature, scientists report that the waves flowed in a distinct pattern, suggesting that each individual’s brain had mapped walls and other boundaries.
Interestingly, each participant’s brain waves flowed similarly when they sat in a corner of the room and watched someone else walk, suggesting that these waves were also used to track other people’s movements.
“We were able to directly study for the first time how a person’s brain navigates in a real physical space shared with others,” said Nanthia Suthana, assistant professor of neurosurgery and psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at L ‘University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
The study was part of the US National Institute of Health (NIH) brain research through the Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative.
In this study, the team worked with a group of participants with drug-resistant epilepsy, aged 31 to 52, whose brains were surgically implanted with electrodes to control their seizures.
The electrodes reside in a memory center in the brain called the medial temporal lobe, which is also thought to control navigation, at least in rodents.
Over the past half century, scientists, including three Nobel Prize winners, have discovered that neurons in this lobe act as a global positioning system (GPS).
“Several indirect evidence supports the role of the medial temporal lobe in the way we navigate. But testing these ideas further has been technically difficult, ”said Matthias Stangl, postdoctoral scholar at UCLA and lead author of the paper.
Dr Suthana’s team intends to explore these ideas in more depth.
In addition, the team has made the backpack available to other researchers who want to learn more about the brain and brain disorders.