How our brains help us find misplaced objects
(21 December 2020)
Have you ever wondered how we remember the last place we saw our car keys or other objects like mobile phones and glasses?
New research shows we have a type of brain cell that's sensitive to the distance and direction of objects, they call these Vector Trace cells.
These are in addition to GPS-like brain cells, which can store maps of places we have been, like our kitchen or a holiday destination.
Our researchers found that Vector Trace cells can track how far we’ve travelled and remember where things are, which are added to our memory maps of the places we’ve been, helping us to find objects we’ve misplaced.
Detecting brain diseases
The discovery of Vector Trace cells is particularly important as they are found in the area of the brain that’s the first to be attacked by disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. This could explain why a common symptom of the disease, and a key early warning sign, is losing or misplacing objects.
As the new research uncovers further levels of our memory, which is often lost with brain damage and ageing, it could lead to more understanding about certain kinds of dementia and help uncover new ways for earlier diagnosis and more effective therapies.
Find out more
- Read the full research paper published in Nature Neuroscience: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41593-020-00761-w
- The research was led by Dr Steven Poulter and Dr Colin Lever who are members of the Learning and Memory Processes Centre at Durham University
- Dr Colin Lever is Associate Professor in our Department of Psychology
- Find out more about undergraduate and postgraduate study in our Department of Psychology
- Dr Thomas Wills co-led the research and is Associate Professor in Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of Central London (UCL)