Turn right 300 ft. You may hear this type of message from your car GPS. How does our brain interpret and organize directional or spatial information? Neuroscience researchers and rats at Dartmouth, have identified two brain cell types that are responsible for calculating or recalculating our environment: head cells and grid cells. The head cells, within the thalamus, sense head position in relation to space, and send information to grid cells in the hippocampus. Both are high traffic areas in the brain.

As an example, if you are sitting in your living room looking out a window, you already understand where you are in space because you have internal GPS coordinates: mapping as the result of head cells sending directional information to grid cells via the thalamus. However if the thalamus is damaged, head cells cannot communicate with the grid cells to form a map.

The thalamus decodes sensory information like smell and touch and researchers think this could contribute to our internal GPS. Might this also play a role in brain diseases like dementia?

Read more at www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/42095/title/-Inner-GPS—Support/

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