Researcher helps people who constantly get lost

If a man asked for directions to take Sharon Roseman home after the first date, she knew the relationship was over.

CALGARY — If a man asked for directions to take Sharon Roseman home after the first date, she knew the relationship was over.

She’d have to admit she hadn’t the faintest idea where she lived in relation to where they were, and couldn’t give any hints at all on how to get there. “That was pretty much the first and last date,” she laughs. “That became just my life, it was just, OK, won’t see him again.”

It wasn’t until decades later, when she met University of Calgary researcher Giuseppe Iaria, that she realized she wasn’t the only one who struggled with navigating even simple trips from home and work, constantly getting confused in the most familiar places.

He concluded she has developmental topographical disorientation, a condition he documented for the first time last year in a Vancouver woman who had built up a carefully constructed routine to mask her inability to navigate even daily trips.

Her commute to work involved a bus ride, followed by a short walk along a straight path to her office.

Most people with the condition are unable to form mental maps of the things around them, so while they know important landmarks, they have no idea how to move from one to another, said Iaria.

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