A new study reveals how your brain navigates places and monitors someone else in the same location. The findings suggest that our brains generate a common code to mark where other people are in relation to ourselves.
The results imply that our brains create a universal signature to put ourselves in someone else's shoes.
Researchers observed epilepsy patients whose brains had been surgically implanted earlier with electrodes to control their seizures. The electrodes resided in the medial temporal lobe, the brain centre linked to memory and suspected to regulate navigation, much like a GPS device.
They used a $3.3 million award from the National Institutes of Health's BRAIN Initiative to invent a special backpack containing the computer that wirelessly connects to brain electrodes. This enabled her to study research subjects as they moved freely instead of lying still in a brain scanner or hooked up to a recording device.
In this experiment, each patient wore the backpack and was instructed to explore an empty room, find a hidden spot and remember it for future searches. While they walked, the backpack recorded their brain waves, eye movements and paths through the room in real-time.
As the participants searched the room, their brain waves flowed in a distinctive pattern, suggesting that each person's brain had mapped out the walls and other boundaries. Interestingly, the patients' brain waves also flowed in a similar manner when they sat in a corner of the room and watched someone else approach the location of the hidden spot.
The finding implies that our brains produce the same pattern to track where we and other people are in a shared environment.