The Compass Within – Sense of direction

Article in Nature volume 18 number 4 April 2015

This is a very important piece of work which begins to bring us to an understanding how a sense of direction works and which is NOT magnetic based. We at know that this “sense of direction” must be crucial for navigation so Simon Raggett’s (one of our editors) finding of this work is really important.

Here is Simon Raggett’s summary and review of the work: 

Nature Neuroscience, Vol. 18, No. 4, April 2015

Summary and review of the above article

Head-direction systems function as a compass. Neurons involved in these systems increase their firing rates when the head is pointed in a particular direction. Firing is also influenced by the angular velocity of head momentum. Head-direction information is viewed as a key part of the brain’s navigation system, and is also important for the development of grid cells in the entorhinal cortex.

Internal networks

Head-direction networks have been suggested to represent orientation, being achieved by means of internal network interactions. Head-direction neurons in multiple brain regions maintain a representation of a subject’s direction. Individual neurons are tuned to particular directions, and the subset of neurons active at any particular moment represents the subject’s direction.

Ring attractors

Since the 1990s, theorists have proposed an attractor network or ring attractor of neurons that function together, keeping the representation of direction aligned, or recovering it, in the case of the subject becoming disoriented. Neurons not orientated to a particular direction are suggested to be inhibited, giving local excitations surrounded by global inhibition. In contrast to a compass that selects an external north, the head-direction system defines its own ‘north’. The location of activity on the ‘ring’ differentiates the subject’s direction. The internal generation of direction is thus a type of internal neural compass driven by the activity of specific neurons. The internal processing is seen as the primary factor with external signals then becoming associated with it.

Neural recordings

The authors discuss the extent to which head-direction processes depend on internally generated activity, and the extent to which they depend on external signals. The relationship between internally generated activity and external signals is a key topic in current neuroscience. The authors’ study was based on recordings of the activity of ensembles of head-direction neurons in the antero-dorsal thalamic nucleus and the post-subiculum. Their findings show that external inputs, including visual signals, influence an internally organised network that enhances such signals. The head-direction system involves multiple brain regions including the brain stem, the antero-dorsal thalamic nucleus, the post-subiculum and the entorhinal cortex.

Preservation in sleep

The coherence of the head-direction neurons was preserved in sleep indicating that the connectivity of the head-direction neurons is sustained in sleep. This finding has been seen to confirm the existence of internally generated head-direction. The much faster timescale during slow wave sleep was seen as being reminiscent of hippocampal signalling during sleep.

The study found that the correlated activity of the antero-dorsal nucleus and the post-subiculum was preserved across different brain states, and appeared to derive from a combination of internal and external processes. In sleep, the head-direction system can move independently of sensory inputs, thus indicating an internally organised aspect that makes predictions, which can subsequently be combined with external signals, and adapted to ongoing changes in the environment. With ambiguous external signals, internal head-direction systems may help resolve conflicts in navigational decisions.

Unfortunately we cannot bring you the whole article but you can follow this thread:



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A little navigational help from animals

A little navigational help from animals.

Tristam Gooley, who is one of our heroes, and a brilliant natural navigator have posted this fascinating link to his web site.

You should follow this and delve into his other insights too as surely animals use many of the same clues as the ones that Tristan points out:

Richard Nissen

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Origin of life and Quantum Criticality

Simon Raggett (one of our editors) has sent us this fascinating link discussing the origin of life and the hidden role of Quantum Criticality:

as he says:

This might be thought to have possible implications for links between organisms and surrounding electromagnetic fields.

Simon Raggett

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Universal Consciousness

On 30th March 2015, Richard Silberstein gave a presentation to the Science Medical Network on “Universal Consciousness”:

Mystics of various religious and spiritual traditions have, on occasion, described a mystical realisation as that of the entire universe’s conscious. In this talk, he described some novel parapsychological studies that may shed light on the question of whether consciousness constitutes an irreducible and core constituent of the universe. He particularly stressed work done studying how random events are perturbed by consciousness to become much less random to the benefit of the participant. Much similar work has been by Rupert Sheldrake.

Professor Emeritus Richard Silberstein holds a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Melbourne and a BSc(Hon) majoring in Physics from Monash University. At Swinburne University of Technology, he served as Head of the Department of Physics and subsequently became founding Director of the Brain Sciences Institute. He has over 30 years of cognitive neuroscience research experience and is the originator of Steady State Topography (SST) a brain imaging methodology. He has co-authored over 200 papers in the form of conferences, presentations, journal articles and book chapters in various areas of cognitive and clinical neuroscience as well as consumer neuroscience.

For this is of huge interest, as we cannot understand how migration takes place without something like a conscious universe. In migration, the knowledge of the routes and destinations are transmitted between generations without teaching.  For instance: how does the Cuckoo find its way to its wintering grounds and back?  These locations are plastic and change over time as conditions change. Dr Jim Lyons has done work on how animals might tune into this consciousness to know where to go.  If the universe has what dowsers call “The Universal Information Field” – (see Jeffery Keen’s work) and animals can tune into this, then they can find their destinations.  This means navigating over vast expanses of ocean (Bartailed Godwit for instance) is not a problem.

Richard Nissen


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Mass beaching fuels Japan quake fears

Antonio Nafarrate, one of our editors, shares this with you:
He explains that this was caused by changes in the gravitational topography.

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The migration of the Blackpoll Warbler (Setophaga Stiata) in the New World

There have been many recent press reports of work done by Dr Bill DeLuca of the University of Massachusetts.  On the migration of the Blackpoll Warbler.

Please find a description of this work here:

see also: has been talking about very long migrations of birds over the ocean for a long time and especially the migration of the bar tailed Godwit.  It is very nice to have proof that birds can do these enormous journeys (1700 miles) in one journey without stopping, because these warblers are not equipped to stop on the sea.

There is astonishment that these birds suffer very high casualty rates of up to a half but we think that most migratory birds have quite high birth rates (the blackpoll warbler has 3-9 eggs per clutch) so that they can tolerate high losses, they only need two survivors per clutch to keep the species alive.

The shortest distance for this migration between the high arctic summering grounds of Canada and the North Western part of South America (Venezuela, Cuba and Columbia) is over the open ocean. We are still searching to understand how they know how to navigate over these huge distances of open ocean.

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Sense of direction supported by clues by Marcus Bicknell

Marcus Bicknell talks here about how a sense of direction is supported by clues conscious or unconscious that hone the general direction to take.

My feeling is that many of us do always know which direction to go. The instinct is then supported by clues. The clues can be conscious, like observing stars, position of the sun, geographical features and what you’re expecting to see. Other clues are subliminal but are just as important. Wind on the face. Incline of the land. Mountains in the distance. Curiously a single clue can be conscious to one traveller and subliminal to another. How many people are conscious of Venus to the West but may be influenced by it?

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