The GPS Effect
Do you rely on your satnav (GPS) to get everywhere? Do you even use it to navigate to familiar places? If so, perhaps you might want to consider using it less.
It turns out that using your satnav is an easy way to lull ourselves into a false sense of security and lose our sense of direction—too much use of the satnav actually makes it harder for us to create spatial maps. Even worse, some researchers believe that if we don’t use our spatial abilities regularly, it could lead to a higher risk of early-onset dementia. The researchers suggest that we use our satnav only when we don’t know the route, and use it more as a tool than a crutch.
On a more positive note, it turns out that constantly using our spatial abilities makes our brains stronger. London cabbies have to go through an extremely rigorous process to learn their routes, which only cover a 9.5-kilometer (6 mi) radius but include 25,000 streets with 320 separate routes and about 20,000 different points of interest. Researchers studying London cabbies found that not only seasoned veterans but also those who had only just taken the training had an increase in grey matter in the brain. Scientists believe the more important implication of this study is that it shows the human brain is extremely good at adapting well into adulthood.