In DepthNeuroscience

Humans may sense Earth's magnetic field

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Science  22 Mar 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6433, pp. 1257-1258
DOI: 10.1126/science.363.6433.1257

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Summary

A study published this week offers some of the best evidence yet that humans, like many other creatures, can sense Earth's magnetic field. But it doesn't settle other questions that have swirled around this contentious idea for decades: If we do have a subconscious magnetic sense, do we ever use it? And does it arise from an iron mineral found in our brains, as the authors believe? The experiment recorded brain activity from electrodes on the scalp to search 34 participants for some response to changes in a highly controlled magnetic field equal in strength to Earth's. It revealed a marked change in brain waves of a certain frequency. But some researchers aren't convinced that the brain's reaction to a magnetic field represents a true "sense" unless this reaction also guides our behavior.