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The Future Of Geocaching … Pigeon Implants?

I’ve often wished my smartphone could be built into my wrist so that I could be completely plugged in. Now it seems pigeons already are … at least for GPS.

Researchers in the United States have identified a group of 53 cells in the brains of pigeons that respond to the direction and strength of the Earth’s magnetic field.

These new “GPS neurons” seem to show how magnetic information is represented in birds’ brains.

Every neuron had its own characteristic response to the magnetic field, with each giving a sort of 3-D compass reading along the familiar north-south directions as well as pointing directly upward or downward.

In life, this could help the bird determine not only its heading just as a compass does, but would also reveal its approximate position.

Each cell also showed a sensitivity to field strength, with the maximum sensitivity corresponding to the strength of the Earth’s natural field.

And just like a compass, the neurons had opposite responses to different field “polarity” – the magnetic north and south of a field, which surprised the researchers most of all.

So it would seem our tiny brained friends not only use magnetic fields for navigation but they are actually able to determine their location, via a Pigeon Positioning System (PPS).

And it’s not a great leap to suggest that one day we might be able to have PPS system implanted into us. Researchers are already in the process of implanting a bionic eye that hooks straight into the optic nerve and which should provide much more than the ability to sense light.

So if we can have a bionic eye implanted, why not a GPS system? Imagine what that would do to the dwindling GPSr market!

 

 
 
 

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