When Here to There Becomes Here and Now

Author, science writer, and former Senior Editor of New Scientist, Michael Bond, says our brains are wired to navigate great distances. So what do we do when we can’t leave the house? 

In the inaugural episode of Sheltered at Home, Michael explores our innate ability to navigate and what happens in our brains when we move to a state of isolation. 

Sharing anecdotes from both his family history and those of famous expeditions immobilized for long periods, Michael ends with coping strategies that help us adapt to long stretches at in one place. 

Michael Bond’s new book, From Here to There: The Art and Science of Finding and Losing Our Waywill be released on May 12

Listen to this podcast now. 

What you should know

There’s a part of our brain called the hippocampus with cells that are sensitive to space. And these are cells that will tell us when we’re in a place that we’ve been in before.

These cells are not only concerned with navigation, but they’re also concerned with other cognitive functions, which seem to have evolved later, but seemed to have built on this struck spatial structure in the brain.

Experiences from those in solitary confinement of various kinds show how damaging the collapse of our spatial dimensions can be. 

Developing and maintaining a structure is critical in a difficult situation for preserving a sense of purpose and boundary. 

Reaching out with the mind to stay grounded and connected to the spatial aspect of the brain when in a confined location is one way of ensuring critical aspects of the brain are activated. 

Rituals transcend our own immediate boundaries and isolation, as well as group boundaries that might typically appear in society. Right now in the UK and across Europe, there’s a new ritual. Every evening at a specific time, everybody goes to their windows or their doors and claps. They’re applauding the workers from the health service: the nurses and doctors bravely fighting Covid-19.