Navigational Skills

Country roads… take you home?? Literally?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Where did you grow up? In a bustling city? Suburban cul-de-sac? Out on a farm, perhaps? Could your home impact your sense of direction?

Enter Antoine Coutrot and team from the University of Lyon.  

They went on a QUEST to find out… using a video game! “Sea Hero Quest” was designed to understand people’s cognitive abilities. The researchers looked at nearly four-hundred thousand participants. They analyzed how well they navigated to a target in the game. 

And what did they find? Individuals who grew up in more rural areas were able to find the target FASTER! Rural roads meander more than a city block, requiring more brain energy to navigate!

This discovery suggests our environment can shape wayfinding skills! This gives doctors a baseline for people’s cognitive abilities. Some believe it may give insight into when they deteriorate, due to diseases such as Alzheimers. 

So video games can be GOOD for our brains! Now… which way to the arcade? Let me bridle up my horse.

Reference: Coutrot, A., Manley, E., Goodroe, S., Gahnstrom, C., Filomena, G., Yesiltepe, D., Dalton, R. C., Wiener, J. M., Hölscher, C., Hornberger, M., & Spiers, H. J. (2022). Entropy of city street networks linked to future spatial navigation ability. Nature604(7904), 104–110.