first_imgHave you ever stared at a map on your phone, utterly confused, as your GPS cryptically directed you to “head east”? It turns out that the entorhinal region of the brain—an area best known for its role in memory formation—may be at least partly to blame for your poor sense of direction. According to a study published online today in Current Biology, this brain region may help humans decide which direction to go to reach a destination. To traverse any environment, a navigator has to have a sense of both the direction they’re currently facing and the direction to the destination. In the study, participants explored a virtual, square room with four unique objects in each corner and different landscapes on each of the four walls. Once they were familiar with the environment, the volunteers had to navigate a series of paths from one corner to another while the researchers monitored their brain activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging. The entorhinal region has long been known to help people identify which direction they’re facing already, but to plan a route, navigators must also imagine the direction of their destination. The study showed that this brain region likely also has a role in decisions about which directions to face next to get where we want to go. And as the participants imagined their way through the virtual room, the researchers found that the strength of the signal from this region was directly related to navigational performance, providing some new insights into why some people never need to stop for directions and others can’t even navigate their way out of a parking garage.last_img read more