Science 2 min read

Theta Oscillations Help Brain Remember Where to go

Our brain has a natural GPS called theta oscillations, and scientists are now using virtual reality to explore its potentials.

Gustavo Frazao / Shutterstock.com

Gustavo Frazao / Shutterstock.com

Wondering how your brain remembers where it’s going? It may have to do with something called theta oscillations.

A recent study suggests that the brain implements some form of GPS for spatial navigation. With further research and development, the method could one day be used to treat patients suffering from neurodegenerative disorders.

The researchers from Freiburg, Bochum, and Beijing discovered rhythmic fluctuations in a brain activity related to human navigation. They’re calling it the theta oscillations

Past studies have shown that theta oscillations – during which the brain activity changes at a frequency of about 4 hertz – plays a vital role in navigation. However, the exact process has remained unclear until now.

For the study, the researchers worked with epilepsy patients who had electrodes in their brain for surgical planning. Thanks to the wires, the researchers could record the participants’ neuronal activities while they performed a navigation task in a VR setting.

Discovering the Theta Oscillations in a Virtual Reality Environment

The task required the participants to associate individual objects with specific locations in the Virtual Reality environment. When they did this, the researchers noted a location-specific activity pattern in the epilepsy patients’ brain.

So, when the participants had to recall which object they associated with which location again, their brain re-activated the location-specific activity pattern as they navigated the VR environment.

Furthermore, this reactivation occurred for different object-location pair at different times in the theta cycle.

According to the co-author of the study and researcher at Universitätsklinikum Freiburg, Dr. Lukas Kunz:

“Accordingly, theta oscillations may coordinate the reactivation of different memories and, moreover, may help distinguish between competing memories.”

Health professionals have linked several disorders with disorientation and memory loss. But, an understanding of the underlying neuronal mechanism could be a game-changer.

The researchers believe that the study could help identify the unique biomarkers for such neurological disorders. That way, they could provide a healthier life for patients with neurodegenerative diseases.

However, further study of the working mechanism of the theta oscillations is necessary.

Read More: China Unveils Brain-Computer Interface Chip For Mind-Reading

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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