Neuroscientist Neil Burgess gives us a good understanding on how the hippocampal, the area responsible for memory, works to create a cognitive map for us to know where you we parked the car or if we going in the right direction. My husband seems to have a good sense of direction and always does all the driving anytime we take a trip. I on the other hand don’t feel I am as good in finding my way.
Neil Burgess points to studies with rats and mice that point to the finding that the brain neurons communicate with each other by sending little pulses or spikes of electricity marking a spot in the space the rats are in. Together these space cells form a map for the rest of the brain, informing where you are. Place cells activating each other via dense interconnections and then reactivating boundary cells to create the spatial structure of your surroundings and viewpoint. Grid cells move this viewpoint through that space. Head direction cells, fire like a compass providing the viewing direction from which you generate an image for your visual imagery. This is an impressive mechanism that all works together to tell you where you parked your car.
The hippocampal continues to grow as place cells, grid cells, boundary cells, head-direction cells and visual imagery continue to develop its cognitive map. This explains why my husband is better at direction then I am. He simply does more driving and his hippocampal is more developed. I tend to do less driving and in fact if I am going somewhere for the first time I would rather ask my husband to take me then to make the effort to learn how to get there. Well, based on this, I think I will try to do more of the driving and develop my hippocampal to get better at knowing my way around.
Below is the link for Neil Burgess Ted Talk: