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Scientists found that individuals can better navigate environments that are topologically similar to where they grew up, Science Alert reported.

In their paper, researchers collected data from almost 400,000 people from 38 countries who had played the videogame Sea Hero Quest, a wayfinding game that also contributes to research on dementia.

They then combined the data with a novel metric – known as “street network entropy” (SNE) – to measure the user’s spatial navigational ability. The team explained that the SNE measures the complexity of a city’s layout, which they used to determine the complexity of the biggest cities in the 38 countries.

They reported in their findings that cities that were more like a grid – such as Chicago – had lower SNEs while higher ones were mostly seen in organic sprawls such as Prague in the Czech Republic.

They also noted that participants raised in low SNE cities performed better in videogames with regular layouts but not in less organized environments. However, those who grew up outside urban areas or in high SNE zones showed “better performance at more entropic video game levels.”

“This confirms the impact of the environment on human cognition on a global scale and highlights the importance of urban design on human cognition and brain function,” the authors wrote.

Still, they acknowledged that there could be many mechanisms at play when people are developing their navigational skills.

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