Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese


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. []


My Terrible Memory

Exhibit A:

I appear to have forgotten both my blanket (which I brought to keep me warm on the plane) and a jar of honey (from the bees that live on the farm where my dad keeps his birds) at my sister’s place. I realized that I forgot my blanket in the car on the way to the airport yesterday (it was too late to turn back to get it), but I have only just now discovered the missing honey.  I remember wrapping the jar in a plastic bag (just in case it broke in my luggage), but it is most definitely not in my luggage now. I’m sure it’s sitting on the coffee table at my sister’s place.

Exhibit B:

Today at work, I was chatting with a co-worker in her office about logic model development and I told her that, having just recently created an evaluation plan using a logic model, I had a few documents that I could send her to give her a bit of an introduction to the topic.  But I was on my way to go grab a cup of tea, so I said, “I’ll email those when I get back to my office.” And then I switched my ring from my middle finger to my index finger.  It’s sort of like the old tie-a-string-around-your-finger to remember something trick.  I knew that if I didn’t have my ring on the wrong finger, emailing those documents would completely slip from my mind before I even got to the caf to get that cup of tea.

Exhibit B:

Tonight while cooking dinner, which consisted of French fries and a wrap with refried beans/tomatoes/green onions/lettuce/yogurt, I decided that I would also roast a squash for my lunch tomorrow.  So I put the fries in the toaster oven and the squash in the real oven.  The fries needed to cook for 20 mins, so I set the microwave timer to beep for that.  And then I set my stopwatch function on my watch to time the squash, which needed about 45 mins.  In retrospect, I should have set the timer function on my watch to beep after 45 mins, rather than setting the stopwatch to count up, thinking “oh, I’ll look at my stopwatch and once it gets to 45 mins, I’ll remember to take the squash out of the oven.  After 20 mins, I ate my delicious dinner while watching clips of the Colbert Report on the Comedy Network website AND PROMPTLY FORGOT I WAS COOKING THE SQUASH.  An hour and 45 minutes later, I was wondering why my apartment still smelled like French fries. And then I went into the kitchen to wash the dinner dishes and make some tea.  Once there, I wondered why it was so damn hot in my kitchen.  And then I yelled, “Oh my god, I forgot the squash!!”  My apartment didn’t smell like French fries, it smelled like cooking squash. Poor, poor burnt squash.

On a related note, researchers at UBC have recently discovered a new brain disorder called “developmental topographical disorientation,” in which people have trouble orienting themselves in an environment (also known as topographagnosia) despite any apparent brain damage or other cognitive impairments.  It means they get lost really easily.  I’m pretty sure I have this, as anyone who has ever been with me on a trip will attest.  And by “trip”, I mean pretty much anywhere outside my house.  The researchers have created a website and I was going to take their “Test Your Skills” test to see if I have D.T.D., but it’s not up on their site yet.  It says to come back in a few weeks.  I intend to, but I’m pretty sure I’ll forget before then.