Can humans sense the Earth's magnetism?

June 21, 2011, University of Massachusetts Medical School

For migratory birds and sea turtles, the ability to sense the Earth's magnetic field is crucial to navigating the long-distance voyages these animals undertake during migration. Humans, however, are widely assumed not to have an innate magnetic sense. Research published in Nature Communications this week by faculty at the University of Massachusetts Medical School shows that a protein expressed in the human retina can sense magnetic fields when implanted into Drosophila, reopening an area of sensory biology in humans for further exploration.

In many , the light-sensitive chemical reactions involving the flavoprotein cryptochrome (CRY) are thought to play an important role in the ability to sense the Earth's magnetic field. In the case of , previous studies from the Reppert laboratory have shown that the cryptochrome protein found in these flies can function as a light-dependent .

To test whether the human cryptochrome 2 protein (hCRY2) has a similar magnetic sensory ability, Steven Reppert, MD, the Higgins Family Professor of Neuroscience and chair and professor of neurobiology, graduate student Lauren Foley, and Robert Gegear, PhD, a post doctoral fellow in the Reppert lab now an assistant professor of biology and biotechnology at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, created a transgenic Drosophila model lacking its native cryptochrome protein but expressing hCRY2 instead. Using a behavioral system Reppert's group previously developed, they showed that these transgenic flies were able to sense and respond to an electric-coil-generated magnetic field and do so in a light-dependent manner.

These findings demonstrate that hCRY2 has the molecular capability to function in a magnetic sensing system and may pave the way for further investigation into human magnetoreception. "Additional research on magneto sensitivity in humans at the behavioral level, with particular emphasis on the influence of magnetic field on visual function, rather than non-visual navigation, would be informative," wrote Reppert and his colleagues in the study.

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3 / 5 (2) Jun 21, 2011
Don't own a GPS- Don't need one.
not rated yet Jun 21, 2011

nice website to peruse ^^
not rated yet Jun 21, 2011
reindeer can see UV, most insects can see polarized light ( as amazingly we didn't realize how elaborate their wings were until we recently looked at them with polarized light). pit vipers can sense infra-red. and finally many animals have night vision.

so were talking infrared to ultraviolet with night vision . and polarized.

i'd bet you won't see any set of goggles you can wear that do all that , in a fully integrated fashion, in our life time. you just couldn't threw money fast enough to develop that capacity.

oh yea, and threw a zoom lense on that baby for eagle eyes matching ability.

nature is where the technology is at people!
not rated yet Jun 21, 2011
I've always felt like I knew where north was, however I thought it was more of a working back from where I was facing to the last known point of origin reference.
not rated yet Jun 21, 2011
the human cryptochrome 2 protein (hCRY2) may has a similar magnetic sensory ability, but sensory pathways may never make use of it in a way that is comprehensible to the concious mind. The easiest proof of this is, how many of you humans on this planet can sense a magnet brought close to you when you are blindfolded???. Even a teeny weeny one is so much stronger than the Earth's magnetic field, so there!
1 / 5 (1) Jun 21, 2011
"The easiest proof of this is, how many of you humans on this planet can sense a magnet brought close to you when you are blindfolded???"
You think that's proof? I've seen 6 year old kids read and walk through an obstacle course blindfolded. You'd make a lousy research scientist.
5 / 5 (1) Jun 21, 2011
I have always sort of instinctively known where North is. I live on the west coast and interestingly when I visit the east coast and try to point North the direction I point is consistently South. No conclusions here... just an interesting data point. Somehow the body of water being on the opposite side flips my coordinate system? Dunno. Its possible I'm still using some kind of mental map through reasoning and I'm hardwired to use the ocean as a reference.
not rated yet Jun 22, 2011
"The easiest proof of this is, how many of you humans on this planet can sense a magnet brought close to you when you are blindfolded???"
You think that's proof? I've seen 6 year old kids read and walk through an obstacle course blindfolded. You'd make a lousy research scientist.

That may be true, but it says NOTHING that they sense magnetic fields, get me?
1 / 5 (1) Jun 22, 2011
A legitimate experiment would consist of many subjects, not just your playmate. Also, it would have to be a double-blind test where one group was exposed to a magnet and another group just a chunk of an inert material, same size as the magnet. All subjects would be blindfolded, of course, and if you want to be very careful, don't let the magnet/placebo handler know what they're holding. In years of my own experience, people's sentience varies greatly, so you might be surprised by the acute sensitivity of one or more of your subjects. The earth's magnetic field is only about .5 Gauss at the surface, but you're completely surrounded by the field, and putting a small, strong magnet next to your skin is not a real test. To accept your challenge, I brought a speaker cone magnet close, about an inch, to the back of my head. I distinctly felt a sensation in my sinus cavity. I won't claim that it has any empirical significance, just interesting.
not rated yet Jun 22, 2011
Now I'm going to get some flak for this one, but bare with me:

Astrology is highly unproven yada yada,

just a thought, that something like this could be an argument / test, if it is found that magnetic fields do influence the human brain, even if it's in the slightest, that would logically lead to it affecting different people, at different times, and with varying degrees ( according to how sensitive they physically are ).

Now, this protein has been shown to effect the circadian rhythm in humans. So, if the protein is magneto-sensitive, it would be arguable that this affects the circadian rhythm.

And you can leave it up to your imaginations, just how this would effect Every aspect of human activity.

Now don't judge me, it's just a thought, but this kind of sounds like scientific evidence of what you would call the "hippy" doctrine, spirituality and all that jazz....
3 / 5 (2) Jun 23, 2011
You mean "hippie" doctrine. Actually, astrology is very old, and you can make the argument that people were connected to nature in a way from which modern living has disconnected us. So, yes, the moon exerts its force on the tides, why wouldn't it effect other fluidic systems like a blood stream? This forum is like "running the gauntlet" in an English boarding school, a sadistic exercise in establishing hierarchy among adolescent boys. Don't let others curtail your scientific curiosity, quantum phenomena makes "hippie" doctrine seem run of the mill.
5 / 5 (1) Jun 23, 2011
haha well in my defence, if your circadian rhythm was affected in a certain way you could become quite "hippy" :/

there be no curtailing from me, it was an act to warm the more skeptical on here to the thought, I'm a full blown Aquarius :S
5 / 5 (1) Jun 24, 2011
I may not be able to sense the earths magnetic field but I sure can hear an earth quake before it comes just like animals can - up to 3 minutes before.
1 / 5 (1) Jun 24, 2011
I'd appreciate a phone call when that happens.
5 / 5 (1) Jun 24, 2011
I am in no way dismissing the possibility, but am open to it. I can say this for certain, I sleep differently based on the direction of my body/head in relation to magnetic alignment. I sleep more soundly if my head is pointed south, with north being the runner up. If I'm aligned east/west, I have a hard time sleeping, or will find myself waking up in the north/south position.
1 / 5 (1) Jun 24, 2011
I've read in a number of articles related to facilitating meditation/altered states that a north/south orientation is preferred.
not rated yet Jun 25, 2011
you all have a gift - a secret been held back from your religious leaders for thousands of years - 1 your tuning anteneye or third eye - a part of the brain called the pineal gland - about the size of a grain of rice grey reddish brown and looks like a pinecone -;cad=rja this pinecone shape just happens to be represented in ALL religions - depending on light and the senses - the pineal gland releases the chemical melatonin this interacts with a illegal illusagenic made in the body? - a molecule called dmt which is found in almost every eco system on the planet http://en.wikiped...yptamine - its been around for a long time and has been kept quiet for a reason -
not rated yet Jun 25, 2011 of pinecone in the vatican&hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=pmD&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=np&biw=1016&bih=534&prmd=ivns&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=yCcGTpj8GtG7hAfs14DWDQ&sqi=2&ved=0CCgQsAQ

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