Are You Lost?

*Survival Tip

Why is it some of us seem to know instinctively where to go and others wander around without a clue? Some researchers believe the answer lies deep within the brain, embodied by an actual “sense” of direction that can be resurrected and trained.

For instance, in 1981, R. Robin Baker, Ph.D., a biologist at the University of Manchester, England, reported that blindfolded subjects, when transported to a distant site, could indicate the direction home. Based on his studies, Baker theorized that humans possess a magnetic navigation system that works similarly to the way some birds and fish use Earth’s magnetic fields to find their way during migration, a feat known as magnetoreception.

Although other biologists have been unable to duplicate Baker’s results, it’s undeniable that some people have extraordinary abilities to find their way.

In animals, much of the directional mechanism is inherited, but a lot of it is learned. We humans are likely born with this innate sense of direction, and then either develop it as we get older or lose it from lack of use.

To improve your sense of direction, you need to get out and test it from time to time. No matter how prone you are to get lost, you don’t have to go through life with a GPS in your hand. And what happens when the grid goes down? It will one day you know?

Strategies to help you find your way. It’s best to start out on your home turf.

Study the topography maps of your home town to get the lay of the land. Concentrate on imagining what the valleys, streams, and mountains will look like in relation to one another, and store these images in your memory.

Allow plenty of rest time before and during trips. Studies show the brain is more adept at receiving and storing spatial relationships when well rested.

Practice learning where north, south, east, and west are in relation to your surroundings.

Learn constellations, particularly the North Star, so you can locate true north no matter where you are. It won’t necessarily help you hone an internal sense of direction, but it may help you keep your bearings.

Remember, we’re all in this together,

Credit: Derek P.

Thanks Derek!

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Don’t Get Lost Anymore

Human spatial memory is outstanding. In Ancient Greece, orators visualized their speeches as a mansion, placing topics in each room, then retrieving them while taking an imagined route through the building. Memory champions still do the same.

But navigation is a ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ skill. Drivers in a simulator who follow satellite-navigation instructions find it more difficult to work out where they have been than those who use maps. Instructed drivers also fail to notice they have been led past the same point twice. Mountain-rescue teams are tired of searching for people with drained smartphone batteries, no sense of direction and no paper map.

As we get older, people’s spatial knowledge and their capabilities for route learning and recall seem to decline in some. Loss of spatial orientation is an early indicator of dementia as its been stated. Those who are affected are often moved to unfamiliar places such as care homes, which can exacerbate disorientation. The minimalist interiors of hospitals lack signposts: in a 2015 study, nearly half of junior doctors reported that they had gotten lost in hospitals on the way to a call in which a patient’s life was in danger.

The solution might lie in designing buildings that are easy to navigate — rather than in gadgets. Repeated and mirrored layouts cause confusion; cluttered corridors overload the mind. Placement of simple, memorable and unique landmarks such as pictures can help with orientation.

The human brain has everything a hill walker might put in a rucksack. Studies in rats have revealed three types of cells that enable navigation: place cells, which fire at certain locations; head-direction cells, which track the orientation of the head; and grid cells, which set up a coordinate system for assessing scale and distance.

Learning the layout of city streets has been shown to increase the size of part of a taxi driver’s hippocampus, and a similar effect has been observed in musicians. While improvising music, a free-jazz saxophonist ‘sees’ a landscape of notes to navigate.

Fresh locational cues can conflict with the maps in our brains. It is unsurprising that it takes time to reorient when we emerge from an underground station or that the voice of the in-car satellite-navigation system grates on us.

Our brains must decide whether to accept new information and rejig our internal maps or to reject it as being wrong. A simple, reliable cue — such as a north-facing arrow at the top of an escalator — can help to speed up reorientation.

Credit: Derek P.

*Thanks Derek for this tidbit advice.

Mt 18:11 “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. “