The brain’s GPS for an imaginary world

“I’ll meet you outside in 10 minutes,” you text your friend as you look forward to catching up over lunch. As you message her, you envision yourself turning left towards her office building from your front door, to watch for her to arrive. This sense of direction is not just critical for navigating through the world, but also for imagining or planning interactions with the environment, like when planning to meet a friend. Research in rodents has pinned down several types of neurons that support this neural “GPS,” including cells that sense where in space the animal is, or the direction they’re facing. While recent studies suggest that humans may have similar brain circuitry that supports a sense of direction, the details of such a system are not fully understood.…

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