People with no disabilities and people with disabilities have navigating difficulties. Seems many people have navigating challenges by passivity. Getting safely from Point-A to Point-B may be very challenging. The prompts are coded in Retrosplenial cortex. If you actively and purposefully set landmarks, this part of your brain will get you to A, B, C (and so on) safely.
Getting lost but finding yourself? GPS has been a wonderful navigating tool. It helps drivers find easy ways to get from one location to another. Some people don’t know the correct direction to travel in their local area. Navigating is difficult. For some with cognitive decline, navigating is impossible.
A group of MIT neuroscientists studied navigating and how your brain encodes and decodes landmarks that help you navigate.
Familiar landmarks, using diagnostic testing, asserts that a part of the brain called the retrosplenial cortex (RSC) lights up when you see a landmark and you may decide what you want to do.
Rodents using mazes seem to manage mazes to find cheese reward. Some say it’s part of conditioning. Functional studies of the RSC of rodents consistently point to a role in learning and navigation. These roles are thought to be acted out in concert with the hippocampal formation and the limbic thalamus.
Studies of patients with unilateral retrosplenial damage suggest the RSC has an important contribution to navigation, whereas bilateral retrosplenial damage is often associated with anterograde and varying degrees of retrograde amnesia. The reason? Retrograde amnesia (RA) is a loss of memory-access to events that occurred, or information that was learned in the past.
With no stored landmarks, you’re fundamentally lost though you’ve traveled the area hundreds of times.
Deviations on developing cognitive maps of an area occur with organic damage or as a normal pattern. Everyone has mental maps that they use for navigating; to get around, no matter how “good they are with directions”. Picture your neighborhood, for example. The average person has large mental maps to tell them where towns, states, and countries are positioned and smaller maps to navigate areas like their kitchen. They travel to work, stores, friends, and houses of worship almost automatically. That’s when the RSC knows what it’s doing. Paths are familiar.
There are people that don’t construct mapping for various types of navigating. Those who always travel by car, may have difficulty navigating by walking. The landmarks may be different.
The RSC has been the focus of an increasing amount of research, fueled in part by recent findings that it is among the first cortical regions to exhibit pathology associated with Alzheimer’s disease There is consistent evidence that the RSC suffers very early pathological changes in the progression of mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. Changes in metabolism and physical activity reduction might be contributors.
Long-term memory is thought to rely on the neocortex and is critical for a variety of cognitive processes, including attention, decision making, and new learning. The RSC lies in the midbrain, near the hippocampus, and uses very advanced functions setting spatial memory concepts. Without it, navigating from point A to point B would be impossible. Nor finding your way back to pint A.
Sadly, even the MIT study used rodents as subjects and noted further studies are necessary.
Yet, observation does provide anecdotal evidence that more than a few have cognitive mapping dysfunction, unless there is a known reward.
Cognitive Learning is a type of learning that is active, constructive, and long-lasting. In behavioral geography, a mental map is a person’s point-of-view perception of their area of interaction. They study it to determine subjective qualities from the public such as personal preference and practical uses of geography like driving directions. They use other landmarks as street signs, stores, and other features.
There may be cognitive mapping dysfunction for people with adaptive challenges, as movement decreases. There is no direct evidence.
People without disabilities often use maps or written directions as navigation tools or for remaining oriented. Cognitively-impaired population is very sensitive to issues of abstraction (e.g. icons on maps or signage) and presents the designer with a challenge to tailor navigation information specific to each user and context.
Spatial knowledge is fundamental for the autonomy and the improvement of quality of life for individuals with blindness. Other cues must be learned and mastered to establish maps. Yet, RSC is storing them.
It is unknown whether cognitive function plays a role in the onset of major mobility disability (MMD) and if the effects are independent of physical function. Within neuro- and muscular disorders, purposeful, planned, and structured endeavors undertaken to improve skill or physical fitness level may be helpful. Mapping indoor and outdoor areas for safety require active coding and encoding landmarks for both safety and direction.
Physical activities are those that require energy expenditure and involve bodily movements produced by skeletal muscles. They also involve active thinking, listening to music or not. I prefer navigating without music.