It is interesting to note how navigation activates specialised neurons in the brain.
Dr Oliver Baumann of the Queensland Brain Institute and his colleagues also found that the more familiar someone is with an environment, the better they are at navigating.
13 male and female participants used a randomly generated computer maze featuring prominent landmarks that subjects learned to navigate their way around. The subjects were then shown the landmarks in isolation.
The researchers identified found a small area in the parietal cortex, located towards the back of the brain, lit up when the subjects were navigating the maze. It also lit up when the participants were shown the maze landmarks in isolation.
"We just looked at the way that people navigate in a single plane which would correspond to what we think of as north, south, east and west," ABC Science quoted Baumann as saying.
"We will take this research further in this direction," he added, "and look at things like visual variability to determine why some people are better navigators than others."
Co-author Professor Mattingley says the research could also be used to settle the age-old debate regarding women and direction.
"Our approach could provide an objective test by revealing whether male and female brains respond differently during navigation tasks," he said.
This new study is published today in The Journal of Neuroscience.