The Brain's Internal Grid May Be Distorting Your Reality: Here's Why

First Posted: Feb 12, 2015 02:56 PM EST

The way your brain navigates is ultimately influenced by the shape of the environment around it. 

"If you imagine the pattern made by grid cells is a ruler for our brains to measure distance, we're seeing the ruler bending and stretching depending on the geometry of our external environment," said lead study author Dr Julija Krupic of the University College London, in a news release. "This causes grid patterns to change markedly between enclosures of different shapes and within the same enclosure."

For the study, researchers examined grid patterns created in the entorhinal cortex of the brain of 41 rats as they foraged in circular, square and trapezoid shaped environments.

For grid patterns aligned at an angle of 8.8 ° to the walls in polarized encolsures, they found that the influence could cause distortions in trapezoid shaped spaces.

Furthermore, they found that the primary influence was the result of numerous impacts that shaped the environment, including textures and smells, altered behavior in the speed or directional movement of rats and visual landmarks.

"We were surprised to see how important environmental boundaries are in permanently changing grid patterns and just how local the activity of grid cells is," noted study co-author, Dr. Marius Bauza. "We found those anatomically close to each other in the entorhinal cortex responded coherently. We're planning to use this new information to refine the mathematical models we've developed to help us understand the behaviour of grid cells and how grid patterns form."

More information regarding the findings can be seen via the journal Nature.

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