Our brains aren’t built to understand altitude

Animal brains, ours included, have evolved to be powerfully aware of where we are at any given moment. But it turns out that our brains are surprisingly, frustratingly two-dimensional, and that we’re only dimly aware of changes in altitude.

That’s the finding of new research from University College London. The team studied specific brain cells as rats moved through space: grid cells, which are used to measure distance, and place cells, which are used to understand location. When the rats moved upwards in altitude on little spiral staircases and climbing walls, the researchers found that the grid cells didn’t respond at all, and the place cells only barely registered. This indicates that animal brains simply do not have the complexity to handle full three-dimensional awareness, and so we shortchange our knowledge of height in order to better navigate horizontally — via redwolf.newsvine.com

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