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Wayfinding Through Our Inner Worlds

All these groups appear to rely on mental imagery for wayfinding.

Yet having a sense of place – something a GPS device will never give us – is still important. The need to know where we are, to feel safe in our surroundings, is part of the human condition. We feel this most intensely when the cognitive processes that keep us orientated go awry. The dread experienced by many Alzheimer’s patients comes from their sense of dislocation from places they used to know and a past they can no longer reach. Being lost in the wilderness triggers a comparable terror. People who have been truly lost never forget the experience. Suddenly disconnected from all that surrounds them, they are plunged into a relationship with an utterly alien world. They often believe that they are going to die.

The hippocampus even drives aspects of our cognition that, on the surface, have little to do with physical space.

The hippocampus is a universal map-maker, as good at helping us navigate our inner worlds as our outer ones.

When we don’t know where we are, we lose a sense of who we are.

Michael Bond, We Are Wayfarers

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