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Topographic/Spatial Disorientation

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Topographic/Spatial Disorientation

This disorder means people will experience difficulty in finding their way in familiar surroundings.


Topographic disorientation (TD) can be very disabling yet may go undetected without the appropriate neuropsychological study being done. This inability to navigate through the environment usually involves the person being unable to learn routes in new environments as well. TD is generally viewed as an impairment in spatial memory and has been given different names such as visual disorientation, topographic amnesia and spatial disorientation.


Making our way around our house or driving across the city is a complex behaviour involving many components. TD varies from person to person depending on the area of the brain affected. For example one area of the brain acquires spatial information, another develops long term representation of position and identity while another will perceive relevant landmarks on a journey.


One person may not even remember how to get around their home any more. Another may remember strategic landmarks but not be able to compute their positional relationship to each other. Others may remember well established routes but be unable to learn a new one.


Are There Any Solutions?

The degree people are affected by TD depends on whether they can develop strategies that will compensate for the disorder. Some people can still make their way around town by using maps and constantly asking for directions. Some may benefit from the GPS satellite navigation units that can be fitted to cars or on mobile phones which will give verbal instructions to reach destinations. Other individuals may be able to memorise significant landmarks well enough to navigate certain routes.


A neuropsychological assessment can provide information about the type of disorder and also possible strategies to combat the most disabling aspects of TD. 


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