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GPS Devices “Shut Off” Important Parts of the Brain

Using GPS reduces activity of hippocampus and prefrontal cortex

by Seth Pollard, Natural Society:

Let’s just admit it: If all GPS devices suddenly stopped working, there would be a lot of lost and stranded people on the road. Today, adults may have learned how to read a map, but most kids haven’t the foggiest idea of how to accomplish this task. Researchers are pointing out that without putting this skill to use, we’re starving parts of our brain from much-needed exercise.

It appears that every time you turn to brilliant GPS technology, part of your brain goes on vacation, according to the new study. The old adage “use it or lose it” applies to the brain as much as it applies to any skill set or muscle.

Researchers write in Nature Communications that the hippocampus is used by the brain to process potential routes to take and also to remember street layouts. [1]

Hugo Spiers from University College London’s experimental psychology group and a senior author on the paper said in a statement:

“Entering a junction such as Seven Dials in London, where seven streets meet, would enhance activity in the hippocampus, whereas a dead-end would drive down its activity.” [1]

For the study, researchers examined how the brain maps out the network of streets, plans journeys, and copes with unexpected detours. The study involved just 24 individuals who were asked to navigate a simulation of the Soho area of central London as researchers monitored their brain activity using a scanner. [2]

In some of the experiments, participants had to navigate to a destination by indicating a left or right turn at every junction. In others, they had to push a button to follow the optimized path determined by the computer. The team looked at the activity in each person’s hippocampus, as well as the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in planning and decision-making.

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