Rhythms in the brain help give a sense of location, study shows

January 10, 2013, University of Edinburgh

Research at the University of Edinburgh tracked electrical signals in the part of the brain linked to spatial awareness.

The study could help us understand how, if we know a room, we can go into it with our eyes shut and find our way around. This is closely related to the way we map out how to get from one place to another

Scientists found that , which code location through increases in electrical activity, do not do so by talking directly to each other. Instead, they can only send each other signals through cells that are known to reduce electrical activity.

This is unexpected as cells that reduce electrical signalling are often thought to simply supress .

The research also looked at electrical rhythms or waves of brain activity. Previous studies have found that is linked to not only the number and strength of but also where on the electrical wave they occur.

The research shows that the indirect communication between that are involved in spatial awareness also helps to explain how these electrical waves are generated.

This finding is surprising because its suggests that the same allow our brains to work out our location and generate rhythmic waves of activity.

Spatial awareness and the brain's electrical rhythms are known to be affected in conditions such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease, so the scientists' work could help research in these areas.

The study, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Research Council, is published in the journal Neuron. It looked at connections between nerve cells in the brain needed for spatial awareness in mice and then used computer modelling to recreate patterns of found in the brain.

Matt Nolan, of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Integrative Physiology, said: "Rhythms in brain activity are very mysterious and the research helps shed some light on this area as well as helping us understand how our brains code spatial information. It is particularly interesting that cells thought to encode location do not signal to each other directly but do so through intermediary cells. This is somewhat like members of a team not talking to each other, but instead sending messages via members of an opposing side."

Explore further: Scans show it's not only sight that helps us get our bearings

Related Stories

Scans show it's not only sight that helps us get our bearings

May 26, 2011
Our brain's understanding of spatial awareness is not triggered by sight alone, scientists have found, in a development that could help design technology for the visually impaired.

GPS in the head? Rhythmic activity of neurons to code position in space

September 15, 2011
Prof. Dr. Motoharu Yoshida and colleagues from Boston University investigated how the rhythmic activity of nerve cells supports spatial navigation. The research scientists showed that cells in the entorhinal cortex, which ...

Don't let botox go to your head…or should you?

January 8, 2013
Injecting botox into the arm muscles of stroke survivors, with severe spasticity, changes electrical activity in the brain and may assist with longer-term recovery, according to new research.

Why the brain is more reluctant to function as we age

February 1, 2012
New findings, led by neuroscientists at the University of Bristol and published this week in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, reveal a novel mechanism through which the brain may become more reluctant to function as we ...

Recommended for you

Research reveals atomic-level changes in ALS-linked protein

January 18, 2018
For the first time, researchers have described atom-by-atom changes in a family of proteins linked to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a group of brain disorders known as frontotemporal dementia and degenerative diseases ...

Fragile X finding shows normal neurons that interact poorly

January 18, 2018
Neurons in mice afflicted with the genetic defect that causes Fragile X syndrome (FXS) appear similar to those in healthy mice, but these neurons fail to interact normally, resulting in the long-known cognitive impairments, ...

How your brain remembers what you had for dinner last night

January 17, 2018
Confirming earlier computational models, researchers at University of California San Diego and UC San Diego School of Medicine, with colleagues in Arizona and Louisiana, report that episodic memories are encoded in the hippocampus ...

Recording a thought's fleeting trip through the brain

January 17, 2018
University of California, Berkeley neuroscientists have tracked the progress of a thought through the brain, showing clearly how the prefrontal cortex at the front of the brain coordinates activity to help us act in response ...

Midbrain 'start neurons' control whether we walk or run

January 17, 2018
Locomotion comprises the most fundamental movements we perform. It is a complex sequence from initiating the first step, to stopping when we reach our goal. At the same time, locomotion is executed at different speeds to ...

Neuroscientists suggest a model for how we gain volitional control of what we hold in our minds

January 16, 2018
Working memory is a sort of "mental sketchpad" that allows you to accomplish everyday tasks such as calling in your hungry family's takeout order and finding the bathroom you were just told "will be the third door on the ...

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

MrVibrating
not rated yet Jan 10, 2013
Very neat!
Sinister1811
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 13, 2013
I've always been hopeless at finding my way around new or foreign places (hell, even places I've been to a million times before). I hope that there will be some positive findings relating to this.
Tausch
not rated yet Jan 13, 2013
This research suggestion, of an electrical wave, dovetails to offering the most efficient way of accessing the organization suggested in this research:

http://medicalxpr...tal.html

Both works of research mutually enhance and strengthen each others work.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.