I Can Has Directions?


Many moons ago, I saw a new story about a condition, known as developmental topographical disorientation (DTD), in which, essentially, people innately have a terrible sense of direction. In said news story, they informed viewers that you could check out the website of the neuroscientists studying this disorder – the aptly named gettinglost.ca1 and take part in their studies if you thought you might be one of these people who are hopelessly unable to orient themselves in their environment.  I thought, “I have a terrible sense of direction!” and immediately checked out the site. On the site, I was able to take some online tests as part of their research.  If memory serves, at that time they didn’t actually tell me if I had DTD2. However, some time later I received an email from the lead researcher saying that they were applying for funding to bring people affected by DTD to the University of Calgary for further testing in the form of brain scans and were hoping to get advanced consent from people saying that they’d be willing to participate3. Thus, although they didn’t actually tell me that I have DTD, they wouldn’t be asking me to go to Calgary to be in their study if I didn’t4. I think it speaks volumes about my love of research that I agreed, should they get funding, to go to Calgary to participate in their research!

Anyhoo, I’m still waiting to hear whether they’ll get funding (and I’m sure they are waiting with much more trepidation than I am, given that this is their careers whereas all that’s riding on it for me is a free trip to a city that I hate), but I did get an email today saying that they’d been featured on RadioLab, a US National Public Radio show (and podcast). I haven’t listened to the episode yet myself, but getting the email reminded me that I’d been meaning to blog about my DTD since forever, but I keep forgetting.  So, yes, if I ever go for a drive with you, I will likely ask you for the simplest of directions5, but you can’t make fun of me because I HAVE A DISORDER!!

Now if only I could find out what’s up with my terrible memory!

Image Credit: Posted by Ashley R. Good on Flickr.

  1. I *love* that the first line on their website is “thanks for finding us.” []
  2. but my memory, much like my sense of direction, is terrible, so I could be misremembering []
  3. essentially, they needed to demonstrate that they had enough willing participants with this disorder to fill their study []
  4. My ability to find my way may be impaired, but my logic and reasoning skills are clearly intact! []
  5. like how do I get back to the highway when we stopped for gas. Seriously. []

6 Replies to “I Can Has Directions?”

  1. I think it’s ridiculous that people have turned this into a disorder/condition. Talk about overmedicalization. Soon they’ll no doubt have drugs to treat it.

    What are they going to label your terrible memory? FUCKED (Futile Uniform Cognitive Knowledge Extraction Disorder)?

  2. FWIW – your difficulty with directions is FAAAAR worse than your memory. That’s why you are friends with me — those are two of my areas of strength. You are far less lazy, though, and a better driver!

  3. I give directions, JT drives. That’s been the rule for the past 10 years. And he obeys rules and directions like there’s no tomorrow. So, there’s value in having a directionally unchallenged friend like me, for people with DTD

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