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Innate Direction

July 14, 2010

Rats are born with an innate sense of direction.


An innate sense of direction…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Scientists have puzzled over whether or not we’re born with an innate sense of direction for many years. But now, researchers at University College London have discovered that newborn rats are just as good at adults as telling which direction they’re facing. Cognitive neuroscientist Francesca Cacucci led the study.

FRANCESCA CACUCCI (University College London):
In very simple terms, sense of direction seems to be innate, not learned. You don’t need to explore an environment or explore your spatial surroundings in order to build a sense of where you’re heading.

She says that humans are probably born with a sense of direction as well. She adds that it wasn’t until the rats were a few days older that they developed a sense of how far apart things were, which suggests that an understanding of distance probably requires more experience with the environment. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.