Children born in the countryside have a better sense of direction than city dwellers

If you grew up in Paris, your sense of direction may not be the same as someone from New York. This, at least, is the theory of a new global study co-led by the CNRS.

To reach such conclusions, the researchers compared the performance of nearly 400,000 people from 38 different countries. The instrument used to assess the participants’ sense of orientation? The video game “Sea Hero Quest”, specially developed to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.

Conducted by a team of researchers from the National Institute of Applied Sciences in Lyon, in collaboration with the CNRS and the University College of London, the study suggests that growing up in a rural environment is more helpful for navigating space than being alone. would grow up in an urban area.

“Rural areas are inherently more complex than grid cities: road networks are less organized and distances traveled are often greaterexplains Antoine Coutrot, researcher at the CNRS and co-author of the study. And this finding appears to be cross-border, although it is much clearer in Canada, the United States, Argentina or Saudi Arabia than in other countries.

The study also finds a difference between the inhabitants of the world’s major cities. According to the results, growing up in a complicated city like Paris or Prague gives a better sense of direction in adulthood.

“The street networks in Paris or Prague are very tortuous, at least as bad as what can be found outside the cities. This explains the differences between countries. In Europe or Asia, cities are generally complex, which means that differences in spatial skills are smaller between urban and non-urban residents. But in other countries the cities are often simpler, more gridded, as is the case in Argentina, Canada or the United States.”

Better detect Alzheimer’s disease

Logically, individuals also have more opportunities to locate themselves in space when they are in cities whose layout resembles that in which they lived during childhood. It is therefore difficult for a New Yorker to orientate himself in Paris, but will undoubtedly feel more at ease in a city like Chicago.

“The sense of direction is like all cognitive skills: the more you use it, the better it gets! So we can deduce that if we grow up in a complex city, we use our sense of direction more, because we need it more than in a city where we can orient ourselves more easily.”analyzes Antoine Coutrot.

These new scientific data make it possible to better understand the cognitive abilities of adults and integrate them into the methods of diagnosis and treatment of neurodegenerative pathologies.

“We show that the environment in which we grow up shapes our cognitive abilities, especially those related to spatial navigation. This information is important when using spatial navigation tests in a clinical context, for example for Alzheimer’s disease screening. A doctor will be able to tailor his interpretation of test results to the childhood of his patients.”

Did you like this article? Here’s how to get help and support for Alzheimer’s, whether you’re a patient or a caregiver.

(ETX Daily Up)

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