Are you guilty of what seems to be a trend in our lives? You get into your vehicle to go somewhere you’ve never been or to take a road trip to a destination you don’t normally go to and you immediately turn on the GPS either on your vehicle, the one you’ve purchased separately or on your smartphone. This GPS navigation system is certainly helpful and makes it easier to get where you need to go, especially when you’re unsure of the directions to where you need to go, but is this system making you dumber over time?
When you drive without a navigation system and have to find your way to wherever you need to go on your own the part of your brain that’s related to memory and direction experiences a spike in activity and the decision making part of your brain also becomes more active. When you make use of the GPS navigation system you have no increase in the activity in these areas and won’t experience any benefit from driving that others who don’t use a navigation system get to enjoy in their brains during the drive. This can be important to you if you want to make sure your brain stays healthy and active.
Studies have shown that people who make a turn down a new street or end up getting lost along the way experience a spike in activity of the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex. The hippocampus is the part of your brand related to memory and direction while the prefrontal cortex is the decision making part of your brain. Those who were left vulnerable to their own decision making experienced these spikes in activity in their brains, especially if they happened to get lost along the route to where they need to go.
The London taxi drivers experience these spikes in brain activity many times. They have to take a test called the Knowledge which is a driving test that requires these cabbies to memorize the entire city. After taking the test the size of the hippocampi was found to be enlarged comparted to those driver’s that had never taken this test. The reason you have these spikes in activity in your brain is because you have to think about where you are and what your next decision should be while you’re driving and trying to figure out where to go next.
The overall result is the fact that if we use a GPS navigation system we tend to shut down these parts of our brains because we no longer seem interested in the actual space and streets around us while driving. The best way to keep your brain active is to use it and navigation systems don’t aid in that regard, but they do help in many other ways. Rather than turn off your GPS during a trip where you need to go, you will benefit more by finding other ways to make your brain active and to keep it healthy as you use it for the decisions you need to make and for the memories you want to store.