Getting LostNeuroscientist Paul Dudchenko speaks on why we get lost, the distress and thrill of disorientation and how getting lost can improve your skills.

Getting LostNeuroscientist Paul Dudchenko speaks on why we get lost, the distress and thrill of disorientation and how getting lost can improve your skills.

Arts & Culture, Design

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"People don't behave randomly—space constrains behaviour."

How do we get lost?

In 1987, scientists experimenting on rats discovered that specific neurons fire when an animal faces a certain way. Humans have the same basic brain structure as rats, so the assumption is that whatever neurons are doing in rats, they’re also doing in humans. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that people do have a sense of direction—if you close your eyes, you aren’t instantly disorientated. We get lost when this internal sense becomes detached from the real world, which gives us a sense of heading in a direction that we’re not.

Does this mean our internal map is not anchored to reality?

Yes. That’s why it’s difficult to get lost in an environment you know—it’s usually anchored to familiar landmarks. If you close your eyes, your map can drift a little, and t...

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