The Magnetic Sense and Psychiatric Disorders: Two Great Biological Mysteries of Our Time
Animals have a magnetic sense.
Humans have psychiatric disorders.
I want to introduce my topic by pointing out two natural mysteries. The first mystery involves animal navigation. How do migrating birds find their way to their winter homes, and back again? Research has shown that these birds navigate in part by perceiving the Earth’s magnetic field.
The Geomagnetic Field
The Earth’s magnetic field, or geomagnetic field, is most familiar to people as the force that causes a compass needle to point north. The Earth is a giant magnet, with north and south poles. If we walk in the north direction indicated by the compass, we walk toward the magnetic north pole. This magnetic north pole is not the same as true north. There’s an error, known as declination, which varies at different locations and over long periods of time.
The geomagnetic field's intensity and the angle of the magnetic vector vary across the Earth's surface. The geomagnetic field is more intense and the vector has a more vertical angle to the ground the closer you are to the north or south poles. New York City, for example, has a stronger geomagnetic field and a more vertical vector than Miami, because New York City is closer to the magnetic north pole than Miami.
I’m going to introduce a term that is probably new to most of you. This term is magnetoreception. Tyson Platt defined magnetoreception as “an ability to detect magnetic fields and behave based on that information.” The second part of the definition is critical in distinguishing magnetoreception from more general effects of magnetic fields. For an animal to have magnetoreception, it must act differently based on the information in the magnetic field. This different behavior consists of orientation and navigation. Based on magnetic information, animals acquire a sense of their position relative to a goal. Based on their knowledge of their position, they then set a course toward that goal, using an internal compass and/or GPS.
Compass and GPS
Humans use compasses and GPS’s to navigate. A compass has a needle pointing north, providing directional information. A GPS, a global positioning system, utilizes satellites to provide positional information. Since humans are weak natural navigators, we have to construct devices to help us navigate. Some animals, such as homing pigeons and migratory birds, are believed to have a biological equivalent of a compass and/or GPS in their bodies.
Since the 1960’s, various experiments have been performed that demonstrate the magnetic nature of some animals' orientational ability. A typical experiment to study either the GPS or compass is to capture an animal, put it in a cage, alter the magnetic field surrounding the animal, and then see if it behaves differently than control animals (i.e. animals in the same type of cage without any changes in the ambient magnetic field). “Behave differently” means to move in a different direction. Experiments have shown that changes in magnetic field parameters can cause different behavioral changes in different species.
Wolfgang and Roswitha Wiltschko, pictured here, are pioneers in the study of animal magnetoreception.
Do humans have magnetoreceptive abilities similar to many animals? It’s a question that is still unanswered, although the scientific consensus is that we don’t have such an ability. It’s clear that we don’t have anything approaching the natural orientational abilities of migratory birds or homing pigeons. We don’t migrate long distances when the seasons change (unless we’re retired and wealthy). Our homing ability depends mainly on conventional senses, memory, and, more recently, technological devices. If unable to rely on vision and hearing to orient ourselves, if we forget our route, or if we don’t recognize landmarks, we get lost.
Still, the fact that our natural orientational abilities are weak doesn’t imply that we have no magnetoreceptive abilities. We could perceive the magnetic field, but not be able to utilize this information to orient ourselves. Or we could subconsciously use the magnetic field for orientation, a process that occurs outside our awareness.
Mystery #1—The Magnetic Sense
The supposed lack of a human model makes it difficult to research magnetoreception. It’s hard to understand what’s going on in an animal’s mind when it decides to move in a particular direction. That’s why we can’t be sure that they do have a compass or GPS.
While there has been some progress in the last few decades, we understand very little of the physiological and behavioral basis of magnetoreception. We don’t know the biophysical mechanism, or even where the magnetic sense organs are located. Since animals can’t tell us what they perceive, we don’t know how a magnetic perception looks or feels to them. For example, since humans can see, we know what a visual perception looks like, and we can infer that animals see a tree, house, or blue sky roughly the same as we do. But how do animals perceive that they are north of home? How do they know to move south, toward home? Without a human model, we’re clueless.
The magnetic sense is mystery #1.
Mystery #2—Psychiatric Disorders
Now let’s turn to the second mystery, psychiatric disorders like depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. With all the research that has been done, and all the drugs that are available, we really don’t understand what’s going on with these disorders. Why does one identical twin develop schizophrenia, but 50% of the time the other doesn’t? Clearly there are some unknown environmental factors that interact with a genetic predisposition.
One obstacle to understanding psychiatric disorders is that we don’t have a good animal model. While we can assume that a listless, apathetic animal is depressed, and a tentative, fearful animal is anxious, the connection between these basic animal responses and human psychiatric disorders is tenuous. An animal model of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia is even more difficult to imagine. As with the magnetic sense, we’re basically clueless about mental illness. Psychiatric disorders are mystery #2.
Two Great Biological Mysteries
Animals have a magnetic sense.
Humans have psychiatric disorders.
These two mysteries, which represent disconnects between the animal and human worlds, contradict the leitmotif of modern biology. It's difficult to accept that animals can have an entire sensory apparatus that humans don’t have. Some animals have stronger individual senses than humans. For example, dogs have stronger senses of smell and hearing than humans. Humans still have these senses, however. Since some members of every major group of vertebrates have been shown to have the magnetic sense, including mammals, it’s reasonable to assume that humans may have this sense. Since there are animal models for human diseases like heart disease and cancer, it’s reasonable to assume that there are animal models for psychiatric disorders.
My Research Project
In September 2007, I began a research project that I hope will lead to a solution to these two mysteries. This research project involved the study of how my feelings and symptoms varied as I traveled from one place to another.
Since my college years, I have suffered from a combination of obsessive-compulsive disorder (also known as OCD), tics, and mild chronic depression. While medication helped with my symptoms, I had a lot of problems with side effects. Eventually, my OCD and depression symptoms became reduced in intensity. By 2007, the only medication I was taking was Xanax, which helped with my tics.
In the summer of 2007, I did a lot of traveling. I began to realize that I felt differently in different places, differences that defied an easy explanation. My tics were more severe in southern Utah than in northern Utah. They were more severe in Utah than in the northeastern United States. I was more depressed, however, in the places in which I felt fewer tics. I was curious as to why this was occurring. I decided to drive around, paying attention to how I felt differently in different places. Specifically, I wanted to find out if these different feelings were in any way connected to my perception of the geomagnetic field.
Although I have bachelor’s degrees in physics and psychology, I’m not a professional scientist. I didn’t have the funds to hire people or purchase expensive equipment. My tools consisted of a car, a handheld GPS, a magnetic compass, an air mattress, and a computer with an Internet connection. To estimate magnetic fields, I used the magnetic model calculator, which is available to the public on the web.
My most important finding is that I have an internal GPS. This internal GPS is limited in function; it doesn’t provide much navigational information, so I call it a limited-functionality GPS. I can distinguish whether I’m north or south of my “magnetic home”. My magnetic home isn’t a single place or city. It’s a north-south transition, an area extending northwest to southeast in the U.S. I have observed it in Utah and North Carolina. Please note that this magnetic home is unique for me; other people's magnetic home will almost certainly be elsewhere. My GPS is based on feelings. These feelings, or more precisely, psychiatric symptoms, follow what I call a “Psychological Magnetic Map”.
The Psychological Magnetic Map
The Psychological Magnetic Map links magnetoreception to psychiatric disorders. Psychiatric symptoms are navigational tools, directing me to my “magnetic” home. My home is colored yellow, and is known as the Happy Zone. It’s the smiley face zone. The size of my magnetic home (its north-south distance) varies. I’ll discuss what causes this variation in size later.
What feelings do you associate with the color blue? How about being depressed or unhappy? The blue zone is my Negative Zone, in which I have negative symptoms. My Negative Zone is the area north of magnetic home. Negative symptoms include depression and related symptoms. I feel depressed mood in my Negative Zone.
When I think of hot, I think of the color red. The red zone is my Positive Zone, the zone in which I feel positive symptoms. My Positive Zone is the area south of magnetic home. Have you ever talked with someone who’s manic? Delusional? Anxious? These positive symptoms are signs of an overheated brain. I have tics in my Positive Zone.
Notice how there are more plus signs and a deeper shade of red the further south I move from home. My Positive Zone becomes more positive. Similarly for my Negative Zone.
It’s important to understand that the map is unbounded. My Negative Zone and Positive Zone extend north and south, theoretically to the north pole and equator, respectively. All three zones continue as I move east and west.
It's crucial to grasp the concept of the Psychological Magnetic Map. For those who are still fuzzy about it, watch the video below.
My Happy Zone
My Happy Zone extends from northwest to southeast in the continental United States. I’ve found my Happy Zone in Utah and North Carolina. One likes to think of home as a place or town, but my magnetic home is a north/south transition, and can be found across the United States (and beyond).
This map shows what it might look like in North Carolina. I’ve only found my magnetic home near Raleigh and Goldsboro; the rest is a projection based on my data. Remember that this location is unique for me; other people’s Happy Zone will almost certainly be elsewhere.
See how my Happy Zone can be found at the shore near Cape Hatteras. It passes through Goldsboro, and runs just south of Raleigh. It then continues northwest through High Point and Winston-Salem. My Happy Zone continues northwest, continuing off the map, to Utah and beyond.
Although my Happy Zone was in North Carolina when I lived there from 2008-2010, I didn't feel happy there. The main reason for this is that the geomagnetic environment in North Carolina had properties that destabilized me. One property was that I had seasonal effects around the time of the summer and winter solstices that shifted the Happy Zone away from me. Another property is that I was more sleep sensitive to artificial magnetic fields in North Carolina than in Utah and other northern places I've lived. I think that these destabilizing factors are a result of North Carolina being too far south of where I grew up (Northern New Jersey). The distance is about 700 km (430 miles) southwest, which isn't that far considering the distances people typically move around in today's world, but it was too far for a sensitive person like myself.
Looking at the Sky
I feel the positive/negative/happy symptom distinction most sharply when I look directly at the early afternoon sky. I feel depressed mood when north of home, tics when south of home, and a happy feeling when at home. I feel the symptoms strongly and clearly, but only when I’m looking at the sky. When I look down at the ground, the symptoms go away.
Looking at the sky sharpens my symptoms only in the early afternoon. I feel nothing when looking at the sky in the morning, late afternoon, or night.
To feel the strong symptoms, I have to look directly at the sky (not the sun, but anywhere else in the sky). I feel nothing when looking at reflected sunlight on the ground, or looking at the sky through a window.
I have heard from a woman with bipolar disorder and another with depression/anxiety, both of whom also experience an intense reaction when looking at the early afternoon or midday sky. The woman with bipolar disorder said that she “rapid cycled” when looking directly at the sky. ("To rapid cycle" means to quickly alternate between mania and depression.) The woman with depression/anxiety, who takes her walks around noon, has to look down at the ground to avoid a panic attack. My guess is that both of them were in the Positive Zone at the time they looked at the sky. I have also heard from a man from Washington State who said that when visiting Hawaii, the sky made him feel agitated. I’ll explain later how you can test if you have this reaction to sunlight.
This could be simply extreme sensitivity to light, which I experience. Light sensitivity doesn’t explain the fact that I feel depressed mood when north of home, tics when south of home, and a happy feeling in magnetic home. My hypothesis is that these feelings are navigational tools. They direct me to magnetic home.
Let’s return to the Psychological Magnetic Map. Notice how there’s a line separating the blue (negative) zone from the yellow (happy) zone. This is the Negative-Happy transition, what I term “my peak.” There’s also a line separating the yellow (happy) zone from the red (positive) zone. This is my Happy-Positive transition. I have an intense experience when I walk across either of these transitions. The transitions are only one meter or less in north-south distance. Here’s an example of what I feel when I cross from my Negative Zone to my Happy Zone.
This isn’t a seizure, isn’t a reaction be being shocked, and isn’t a reaction to any special forces or substances underneath the ground or in the area.
My peak can move north or south throughout the day and across days. My peak may be tens of kilometers north the next day, and hundreds of kilometers north the next week.
My peak’s location may be influenced by where and when I grew up. I grew up in northern New Jersey, and went to college at University of Virginia in Charlottesville. The peak when I lived in North Carolina between 2008 and 2010 was 280 kilometers (174 miles) south of Charlottesville.
My peak's location may also be influenced by where I have lived more recently. I moved to Northern Utah in 1994, and aside from spending 2008 through 2012 in the Eastern US, have been living in Northern Utah since 1994. My peak is currently near or in Salt Lake City, less than 16 kilometers (10 miles) north of my home, and has been reasonably stable since Feb. 2014. I call this condition "stable Happy Zone". When I moved back to Utah in 2012 after spending 4 years away, it took 14 months to achieve stable Happy Zone, i.e. for the peak to travel south from Idaho to end up just north of my home. This indicates that the peak and Happy Zone locations can adapt to where I am currently living as an adult.
What Others Feel At My Peak
Most of the time I drove alone to the peak. I would find it using my internal GPS, make a note of the coordinates, and drive back.
My girlfriend helped me create the above video in Utah. She was behind the camera at the time I crossed the peak. She says that she didn't feel anything unusual as I walked through the peak.
In July 2009, while vacationing in Utah, I brought two of my friends along with me to the peak. They are both experienced in energy/psychic phenomena. When I crossed the peak, they experienced intense reactions, too. One friend could visualize the peak traversing the area we were in. One time, I walked through the peak with my arms around each friend. They were shaking almost as much as I was. I think that their reaction was secondary to my peak reaction, but nevertheless it was intense for them.
Sleeping factors affect the Psychological Magnetic Map. By “sleeping factors” I mean factors associated with my sleeping behavior and environment. The most important factor is the compass angle at which my bed is oriented, which I call “bed angle”. Bed angle affects the size of my Happy Zone (its north-south distance). Bed angle also causes the location of my peak to shift north or south every day.
Manipulating bed angle can help manage my symptoms. Like with Feng Shui, it's a way for me to alter my environment in order to improve my mood. While measuring bed angle and rotating my bed are not as easy as taking a pill, I avoid side effects.
To measure bed angle, I stand behind my bed with a compass. I point the compass along the long axis of the bed, from head to foot. I then take a measurement of the bed angle. After sleeping a few nights at this bed angle, I rotate the bed a predetermined amount and then sleep a few nights at the new bed angle.
While it's typical to distinguish between north-south and east-west bed orientations, I found that psychologically they have similar effects. 45 degree (or northeast-southwest and northwest-southeast) orientations have different psychological effects. So the major distinction is between north-south/east-west angles and 45 degree angles.
This figure shows north-south and east-west orientations. Note that for a north-south orientation the head of the bed could be either north or south. Similarly for east-west orientation.
This figure shows 45 degree orientations, or northeast-southwest, and northwest-southeast. Note that for a northeast-southwest orientation the head of the bed could be either northeast or southwest. Similarly for southeast-northwest.
Happy Zone Width
Bed angle affects the size of my magnetic home, or its north-south distance, which I call "Happy Zone Width". As this width reduces in size, the north-south distance of my Happy Zone becomes smaller. As this width increases in size, the north-south distance of my Happy Zone becomes larger. The larger the size of the Happy Zone, the more area exists in which I feel good.
I found that Happy Zone Width is dependent on bed angle. Happy Zone Width is at a minimum when bed angle is near an east-west or north-south orientation. Minimum Happy Zone Width is about 2 to 3 kilometers (1 to 2 miles). Happy Zone Width is at a maximum when bed angle is at a 45 degree orientation. Maximum Happy Zone Width is over 100 kilometers (62 miles).
Here's an example of what the Psychological Magnetic map looked like when I slept at a north-south bed angle while living in Taylorsville, Utah. This was after I achieved stable Happy Zone in 2014.
Notice the narrow Happy Zone, with the blue Negative Zone to the north, and the red Positive Zone to the south.
Here's what the Psychological Magnetic map looked like during the same time period and home location, but when I slept at a northwest-southeast (45 degree) bed angle
See how much larger the Happy Zone is. Guess which bed angle I slept at most of the time?
Bed Angle Drift
My Psychological Magnetic Map shifts north or south a certain distance every day, which I call “Bed Angle Drift". In this picture, the shift is northward. I measure the shift by finding my peak (Negative-Happy transition) at different days. Think of this as my magnetic home (“The Happy Zone”) shifting north or south. As an example, if I’m in the southern part of my Happy Zone in my hometown the night before, the day after a northward shift I’ll be in my Positive Zone. I’ll go from being happy to having tics.
I found that the amount and direction of Bed Angle Drift is dependent on bed angle. There are some bed angles in which Bed Angle Drift is close to zero. These are angles near east-west and north-south. There are also bed angles in which Bed Angle Drift is either large in the south direction, or large in the north direction. All angles near 45 degrees in North Carolina have large Bed Angle Drift in the north direction.
Bed angle drift has been very small in Northern Utah after I achieved stable Happy Zone in Feb. 2014. "Stable Happy Zone" means that my physical home is in my magnetic Happy Zone, and remains so indefinitely (as long as I get to bed on time--see below). There is no sustained N-S peak movement that is a function of bed angle, i.e. no Bed Angle Drift.
Conclusions From Bed Angle Research
What can we conclude from the results of my bed angle research? One thing is that varying bed angle results in changes in my Psychological Magnetic Map. These changes resulting from varying bed angle are difficult to explain other than by hypothesizing that human magnetoreception exists. What physical factor other than the body’s response to the Earth’s magnetic field would be altered as one rotates one’s bed?
Stable Bed Angles
The psychological effect of bed angle is powerful. I feel significantly better at more stable bed angles (i.e. near-zero Bed Angle Drift, which, in North Carolina, correspond to roughly north-south and east-west angles) than unstable bed angles (which in North Carolina, correspond to all the bed angles close to 45 degrees). At stable bed angles, my mood is better, I feel more stable, and my immune system even works better (I tend to get fewer colds and other ailments).
Bed Angle Reset
Does Bed Angle Drift continue on forever? Does the peak keep moving north or south every day? I haven’t tested this longer than a week, but Bed Angle Drift does appear to accumulate over time, as long as there isn’t any change in bed angle. Bed Angle Drift can be reset by changing from an approximately north-south or east-west bed angle, to an approximately 45 degree bed angle, or vice versa. The reset takes 2 days to complete. I feel much better after a reset. The cumulative effect of Bed Angle Drift takes its toll, and the more Bed Angle Drift that happens, the worse I feel. The reset clears out all the Bed Angle Drift. Think of it as rebooting a computer that’s frozen up.
There is a profound psychological effect from a Bed Angle Reset even in the absence of any Bed Angle Drift. As I mentioned above, I achieved stable Happy Zone in Northern Utah in Feb. 2104, and there has been no significant Bed Angle Drift. I still use a Bed Angle Reset when necessary to "reboot" my magnetoreceptive faculty. As an example, after the daylight saving time change (both spring ahead and fall back), I feel off until I do a Bed Angle Reset. My mood and energy are off until the reset happens, then return to normal after the reset completes.
This image shows approximately north-south or east-west bed angles (colored pink), and approximately 45 degree angles (colored gray). To perform a reset, you change your bed orientation from a pink color angle to a gray color angle, or vice versa.
I want to next talk about circadian rhythms. The term “circadian” comes from Latin circa, or “around”, and diem, or “day”, meaning “approximately one day." Circadian rhythms are approximately 24 hour biological cycles. One rhythm that is commonly measured is the melatonin rhythm, which helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
Two terms associated with circadian rhythms are phase advance and phase delay. A phase advance is caused by going to bed and waking up earlier. Say that your normal bedtime is 11 p.m. and wakeup time is 7 a.m. If you change your bedtime an hour earlier to 10 p.m. and wakeup time to 6 a.m., you become phase advanced one hour.
A phase delay is caused by going to bed and waking up later. Using the example above, if you change your bedtime one hour later from 11 p.m. to midnight, and wakeup time from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., you become phase delayed one hour.
Circadian Rhythm Effects
My peak shifts north when I’m phase advanced, and south when I’m phase delayed (relative to solar day). This shift isn’t continuous but is based on a fixed interval of circadian rhythm change.
A 45 minute bedtime change corresponds to one circadian rhythm interval. So if my normal bedtime was 11 p.m., and I went to bed 10:15 p.m., I would become one transition phase advanced. My peak would shift north. If I went to bed at 11:45 p.m., I would become one transition phase delayed. My peak would shift south. I notice this peak shift after I wake up the next morning.
Above is a picture of how a phase advance affects my Psychological Magnetic Map. This occurs when I go to bed 45 minutes earlier. You can see that my map shifts north. This is similar to what I showed you with northward Bed Angle Drift.
Above is a picture of how a phase delay affects my Psychological Magnetic Map. This occurs when I go to bed 45 minutes later. You can see that my map shifts south. It’s the opposite effect of the previous image.
Ideal Circadian Rhythm
I feel much better when at ideal circadian rhythm. I have fewer symptoms and am less agitated. You can see a parallel with my feeling better at stable bed angles, and after a reset. When the peak is at its ideal location, I feel good. When it shifts from its ideal location (whether due to circadian rhythm, or bed angle drift effects) I feel bad.
There is a very tight window for ideal bedtime. I feel off when I'm as little as 10 minutes off from ideal, although the difference may not be enough to shift the peak north or south. Noise, excessive worry, pain, or anything else that can delay going to sleep after going to bed will also affect my mood due to the delayed sleep
Ideal circadian rhythm for me in northern New Jersey (where I grew up) corresponds to an 8:32 p.m. bedtime during the winter, and 10:32 p.m. bedtime during daylight saving time. Note the two hour difference in bedtime when the time changes one hour. Don't ask me why—I don't make the rules. This timing is likely dependent on what my normal bedtime was as a child. My ideal bedtimes are different in other places. In northern Utah, my ideal bedtime (based on local time) is about an hour later than in northern New Jersey.
Artificial Magnetic Fields
An “artificial magnetic field” is a man-made magnetic field. All the effects I’ve spoken about previously, including bed angle effects, the peak, and circadian rhythm effects, are my response to the natural environment. This includes the geomagnetic field and probably other natural environmental factors (such as sunlight).
Until the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in the 1700’s, with a few exceptions the only magnetic fields that humans were exposed to were natural ones. In the past several centuries, humans have created numerous devices, machines, and structures that emit magnetic fields. Steel, power lines, and electrical/electronic appliances emit artificial magnetic fields. Some examples of these in a typical contemporary home environment include innerspring mattresses, steel bed frames and headboards, steel building structures, power lines, wireless Internet routers, cell phones, cordless phones, computers, smoke detectors, home security systems, baby monitors, kitchen appliances, and heating/cooling units. In recent years, with the introduction of wireless networks and devices, we’ve become more and more exposed to these fields.
I’m sensitive to most of these fields when sleeping, not when I’m awake. I know that I’m sensitive to these fields when sleeping because they disrupt my sleep, causing shaking and tics. They also make me feel terrible the next day. When I change to an airbed from an innerspring mattress, keep my bed away from appliances and steel structures, and turn off electrical/electronic things I sleep much better.
I can identify things that affect my sleep when close to me when sleeping, and things that affect my sleep at a distance. Steel objects, for example, only affect me at a short distance. Usually if I place my head at least one meter (3 feet) away from medium size or large steel objects, I can sleep undisturbed. Other things affect me at a distance. For example, an Internet modem powered on can affect my sleep even when it's another room. Distance sleep sensitivity is the most challenging thing to overcome, as magnetic fields can pass through walls, floors and ceilings, and pretty much anything.
Am I Unique?
The following is speculation. I doubt that I’m alone in having magnetoreceptive ability. According to my mother, I’m not from Mars. I’m a human being, and share DNA with other humans.
Some other people with psychiatric disorders probably have magnetoreceptive ability similar to mine. These people are unwitting navigators. Their symptoms guide them north or south of home, but they haven't yet connected their symptoms to their navigational function.
These magnetoreceptive people can possibly benefit from the knowledge I’ve obtained. At little cost and effort, and with relatively few side effects, magnetoreceptive people can make changes that may help them feel better. I emphasize may, because I don’t know enough at present to make any guarantees.
What Disorders Involve Magnetoreception?
My research project involved studying only myself, so I have very little data about other people. One reason that I created this website is to try to get magnetoreceptive people to come forward to share their personal stories. To find out if you or someone you know has the magnetic sense, click here.
Two Great Biological Mysteries Revisisted
Animals have a magnetic sense.
Humans have psychiatric disorders.
Let’s return to the theme of this article, the two great biological mysteries. Based on what you’ve learned so far, would you agree that humans don’t possess the magnetic sense, and animals don’t experience psychiatric disorders?
Animals Use Their Feelings To Navigate
My hypothesis is that animals, including some humans, use their feelings to navigate. Migratory birds feel a primitive version of negative and positive symptoms. Their instincts guide them to their destination. These birds have much greater sensitivity than humans, as dogs have a much stronger sense of smell than humans. These birds also have an internal compass (which I don’t have). This greater sensitivity, along with their internal compass, allows them to navigate based on their magnetic sense.
Magnetoreceptive humans have such poor sensitivity that most of them aren’t aware that their feelings are navigational tools. They attribute their feelings to other things. For example, magnetoreceptive depressed people attribute their mood to negative life events. While most depressed people are in fact depressed due to negative life events, this isn’t the case for a minority of depressed people. For these people, depressed mood is in fact a navigational tool, directing them south, toward magnetic home. Similarly, anxiety isn’t always a reaction to danger or stress. For some people, anxiety is a navigational tool, directing them north, toward magnetic home.
The scientifically-inclined reader can learn more about my magnetoreceptive abilities by reading my research paper.
Feel free to contact me with questions or comments.