Navigation Links
Lost Hikers, Backpackers Really Do Walk in Circles
Date:8/20/2009

Study shows disorientation occurs quickly without the sun, moon for guidance,,

THURSDAY, Aug. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Stories abound of adventurers losing their way in the wilderness, unwittingly walking in circles for days.

Now, new research confirms that the anecdotes are true. Without the sun, a compass or a landmark, people trying to follow a straight course through a forest or a desert ended up back where they started, according to a study published online Aug. 20 in Current Biology.

"Our results confirm the stories that are often described in films and books: people often walk in circles when they are lost," said study author Jan Souman, of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Germany. "Second, our results show that even something seemingly very simple as walking in a straight line actually involves a complicated interplay between several senses, our motor actions and cognition."

In the first experiment, researchers instructed six participants to walk as straight as they could through a large, flat forest, a place in which one tree could quickly look very much like another.

Four participants, walking on a day in which the sun was hidden behind a thick cloud cover, all went in circles, with three participants unintentionally crossing their own path several times.

Two participants walked through the forest on a sunny day. With the sun to guide them, they followed an almost perfectly straight course, as measured by a global positioning system (GPS), except during the first 15 minutes, when the sun was still hidden behind the clouds.

Next, researchers had three people walk in the Sahara desert. Two participants who walked when the sun was out veered from a straight line, but did not walk in a circle.

A third participant walked at night. As soon as the moon disappeared behind clouds, the walker made several sharp turns and started heading back in the direction from which he came.

In a third experiment, researchers had participants attempt to walk a straight line through a grassy field while blindfolded for 50 minutes. Not only did they walk in circles, some of the circles were as small as about 66 feet, similar in size to a basketball court.

"People cannot walk in a straight line if they do not have absolute references, such as a tower or a mountain in the distance or the sun or moon, and often end up walking in circles," Souman said.

Theories about circle-walking include the concept that each person has a bias to turn in one direction because of subtle differences in the strength or length of one leg over the other.

But in the study, participants drifted left or right, and often reversed course, without seeming to favor either direction.

So why do people travel in circles without visual guideposts?

Walking in a straight line is actually a complex task involving the brain, sense of sight, proprioception (the sense of where parts of the body are located relative to each other in space), and the vestibular system, which is involved with spatial awareness and sense of balance, Souman said.

When those are disrupted, people tend to drift randomly, often passing through the place where they started, the study authors noted.

"Our results show that even when people feel they are very certain that they are walking in the correct direction, they still can be very wrong," Souman said. "We cannot always trust our senses."

Paul Sanberg, director of the University of South Florida Center for Aging and Brain Repair, said the study has important implications for pilots and sailors.

"The significance of the experiment is that it shows how important senses are for navigating," Sanberg said. "It's showing scientifically what we had known anecdotally."

When flying into clouds, pilots who think they're flying straight can get into trouble quickly if they don't rely on navigational instruments, said Sanberg, a flight instructor.

"Gravity and your inner ear may not be telling you the right information," Sanberg said.

When in the wilderness, bring a compass or GPS. "It's important to realize how difficult it is to follow a certain course in a terrain that you don't know," Souman said.

More information

The American Red Cross has hiking safety tips.



SOURCES: Jan Souman, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Tubingen, Germany; Paul Sanberg, Ph.D., D.Sc., professor, neurosurgery, and director, University of South Florida Center for Aging and Brain Repair, Tampa, Fla.; Aug. 20, 2009, Current Biology, online


'/>"/>
Copyright©2009 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Really Think Different
2. Does the Crowded TNF Market Really Need Two New Agents? Rheumatologists Provide Insight in the Wave One Report of LaunchTrends(TM): SIMPONI and CIMZIA
3. Go to the doctor? Only if Im really sick ...
4. Go to the doctor? Only if Im really sick...
5. Younger Teens Really Do Care What People Think
6. Multiple Sclerosis - What Are People With MS and Their Health Care Providers Really Thinking?
7. What does Mom really want for Mothers Day?
8. Do Fad Diets Really Work?
9. Heavenly Essence Introduces Pureity - the Only Line of Hair Care Products That Really Cares About You
10. No April Fooling: Higher Taxes On Tobacco Really Do Reduce Smoking, Says American Lung Association of Upper Midwest
11. Is it Really About Alcohol? The Truth About Alcohol Abuse in Women
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Lost Hikers, Backpackers Really Do Walk in Circles
(Date:6/26/2016)... ... 2016 , ... Quality metrics are proliferating in cancer care, and are derived ... eye of the beholder, according to experts who offered insights and commentary in the ... Care. For the full issue, click here . , For the American Society ...
(Date:6/26/2016)... Lake Orion, Clarkston, Michigan (PRWEB) , ... June ... ... direction with respect to fertility once they have been diagnosed with endometriosis. These ... tolerable intercourse but they also require a comprehensive approach that can help for ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... TX (PRWEB) , ... June 25, 2016 , ... ... the United States, named Dr. Sesan Ogunleye, as the Medical Director of its new ... the facility Medical Director of our new Mesquite location,” said Dr. James M. Muzzarelli, ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... ... A recent article published June 14 on E Online details ... to state that individuals are now more comfortable seeking to undergo not only the ... and cheek reduction. The Los Angeles area medical group, Beverly Hills Physicians (BHP) notes ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... ... , ... Global law firm Greenberg Traurig, P.A. announced that 20 Florida attorneys ... peers for this recognition are considered among the top 2 percent of lawyers practicing ... members of this year’s Legal Elite Hall of Fame: Miami Shareholders Mark D. ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... According to a new market ... Needles, Safety Pen Needles), Needle Length (4mm, 5mm, 6mm, ... of Purchase (Retail, Non-Retail) - Trends & Global Forecasts ... market for the forecast period of 2016 to 2021. ... by 2021 from USD 1.65 Billion in 2016, growing ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 Research and ... Global Market - Forecast to 2022" report to their ... treatment method for the patients with kidney failure, it replaces ... fluid from the patient,s blood and thus the treatment helps ... and chloride in balance. Increasing number of ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... -- Research and Markets has announced the addition ... - Forecast to 2022" report to their offering. ... to date financial data derived from varied research sources to ... potential impact on the market during the next five years, ... of sub markets, regional and country level analysis. The report ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: