Charles Darwin used the term “dead reckoning” to describe the remarkable ability of most species to seamlessly navigate back home, even in the absence of external guiding cues. Finding our way home is indeed something most of us take for granted, but this facility is dramatically impaired in many people with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. In this talk we will explore how the brain has evolved to support our sense of space and our sense of orientation. We will then examine how subtle alterations to specific brain regions can lead to profound spatial disorientation and discuss the implications for future therapeutic interventions.

Omar J. Ahmed is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan. He received his undergraduate and Ph.D. degrees in Neuroscience from Brown University before completing his postdoctoral work at Harvard Medical School. His lab studies how space, time and memories are represented in key parts of the brain, as well as how these same brain regions are altered in Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy. His work has helped to understand how running at different speeds alters the brain and also led to the identification of a specific type of brain cell that helps to support the sense of orientation by acting like a stable compass.

This program is in partnership with the University of Michigan Department of Psychology.

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