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Brain Rhythms Help Determine Spatial Awareness

Brain Rhythms Help Determine Spatial Awareness New research with computer modeling suggests electrical signals in specific parts of the brain are linked to spatial awareness.

Historically, scientists have been unsure of the role of brain rhythms in coding spatial information.

Investigators at the University of Edinburgh said their research helps explain how, if we know a room, we can go into it with our eyes shut and find our way around.

This capability is closely related to the way we map out how to get from one place to another.

In the study, scientists found that brain cells, which code location through increases in electrical activity, do not do so by communicating directly with each other. Instead, they can only send each other signals through cells that are known to reduce electrical activity.

This was an unexpected finding as cells that reduce electrical signaling are often thought to simply suppress brain activity.

Investigators also looked at electrical rhythms, or waves of brain activity, as previous studies have found that spatial awareness is linked to not only the number and strength of electrical signals but also where on the electrical wave they occur.

Their findings show that the indirect communication between nerve cells that are involved in spatial awareness also helps to explain how these electrical waves are generated.

This too was a surprise because its suggests that the same cellular mechanisms allow the brain to work out location and generate rhythmic waves of activity.

Since spatial awareness and the brain’s electrical rhythms are known to be affected in conditions such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease, researchers believe the findings may one day aid in the treatment of such disorders.

The study is published in the journal Neuron.

Source: University of Edinburgh

Human brain photo by shutterstock.

Brain Rhythms Help Determine Spatial Awareness

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Brain Rhythms Help Determine Spatial Awareness. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 24, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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