Coronavirus: Here’s how our brains track where we and others go – more way of life

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As COVID cases rise, physically distancing yourself from other people has never been more important. Now a new University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) study reveals how your mind navigates places and monitors someone else in the same location. Published December 23 in Nature, the findings propose that our brains generate a common code to mark where other people are relating to ourselves.

“We studied how our mind reacts when we navigate a physical space — first alone and then with others,” said senior creator Nanthia Suthana, the Ruth and Raymond Stotter Chair in Neurosurgery and an assistant professor of neurosurgery and psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.

“Our results imply that our brains create a universal signature to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes,” added Suthana, whose laboratory studies how the mind forms and recalls memories.

Suthana and her colleagues observed epilepsy patients whose brains had been surgically implanted earlier with electrodes to keep watch over their seizures. The electrodes resided in the medial temporal lobe, the mind centre linked to reminiscence and suspected to keep an eye on navigation, much like a GPS device.

“Earlier studies have shown that low-frequency mind waves by neurons in the medial temporal lobe help rodents retain track of where they’re as they navigate a new place,” said first creator Matthias Stangl, a postdoctoral scholar in Suthana’s lab. “We wanted to enquire this idea in people — and test if they could also monitor others close them — but were hampered by existing technology.”

The use of a $3.3 million award from the National Institutes of Health’s BRAIN Initiative, Suthana’s lab invented a special backpack containing the computer that wirelessly connects to mind electrodes. This enabled her to study research subjects as they moved freely instead of mendacity still in a mind scanner or hooked up to a recording device.

In this experiment, every patient wore the backpack and was once instructed to explore an empty room, find a hidden spot and bring it to mind for future searches. While they walked, the backpack recorded their mind waves, eye movements and paths through the room in real-time.

As the participants searched the room, their mind waves flowed in a distinctive sample, suggesting that every person’s mind had mapped out the walls and other boundaries. Interestingly, the patients’ mind 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 sample to track where we and other people are in a shared surroundings.

Why is this important?

“On a regular basis activities require us to constantly navigate around other people in the same place,” said Suthana, who could also be an assistant professor of psychology at UCLA’s College of Letters and Science and of bioengineering at the Henry Samueli School of Engineering. “Believe choosing the shortest airport security line, looking for a space in a crowded parking lot or avoiding bumping into someone on the dance floor.”

In a secondary finding, the UCLA team discovered that what we be aware of may influence how our brains map out a location. For instance, the patients’ mind waves flowed stronger when they searched for the hidden spot — or witnessed another person approaches the location — than when they simply explored the room.

“Our results reinforce the concept, under sure mental states, this sample of mind waves may help us recognize boundaries,” said Stangl. “In this case, it was once when people were focused on a goal and hunting for something.”

Future studies will explore how people’s mind patterns react in more complex social situations, including out of doors the laboratory. The UCLA team has made the backpack to be had to other researchers to accelerate discoveries approximately the mind and mind disorders.

Coauthors included Uros Topalovic, Cory Inman, Sonja Hiller, Diane Villaroman, Zahra Aghajan, Daybreak Eliashiv and Itzhak Fried, all from UCLA; Leonardo Christov-Moore from USC; Nicholas Hasulak from NeuroPace Inc; Vikram Rao from UCSF and Casey Halpern from the Stanford University School of Medicine.

The study was once supported with underwriting from the NIH’s Mind Initiative, McKnight Foundation and Keck Foundation.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed. )

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