Do humans have a sixth magnetic sense for navigation?


INTRO: Fruit flies do it. Tiny northern wheatears do it. Even salmon in the seas do it. All navigate using Earth’s magnetic field. In fact, hundreds of animals migrate this way, some over long distances. But one species has always been excluded from this electromagnetic orienteering club: Homo sapiens. Men and women show no evidence of possessing internal compasses, researchers have insisted.

But now this view is being challenged. In a paper in the journal eNeuro, scientists at the California Institute of Technology report evidence that men and women’s brains respond to changes in magnetic fields and these alternations could allow them to differentiate north from south and navigate without compasses. “We have found proof that humans possess a definitive sixth sense – magnetism,” said project leader Professor Joseph Kirschvink. “This sensory modality is real. It could explain why some people have better senses of direction than others, for example. It might even be possible one day to restore our ancestral ability to use magnetic fields to navigate.”

The claims are controversial, however... (MORE)

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